Rene Paul Seers tries to hide his face from reporters prior to his sentencing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Friday. Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
An 11 1/2-year overall jail sentence is too much for a man who took part in a violent home invasion last year, a St. John's judge has ruled.
As a result, Rene Paul Seers will begin his 8 1/2-year prison term now, instead of after he's finished serving his sentence for another crime.
Justice Carl Thompson made the decision Friday in sentencing Seers at Newfoundland Supreme Court.
"The totality of 11 1/2 years is substantially above the normal level," the judge said. "(It's) exceptionally heavy."
Both lawyers in the case had agreed 8 1/2 years in prison would be an appropriate penalty for Seers, but they were at odds on when it would begin.
Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves wanted Seers' sentence to begin in 2013 after he finishes serving his current prison term for a 2007 robbery.
But defence lawyer Mark Gruchy wanted the sentence for the home invasion to begin immediately so part of it can be served while Seers is finishing his previous sentence.
In April 2010, Seers was given a three-year jail term for holding up a gas station in June 2007. With credit for time served, that left 27 1/2 months left to serve on the term.
As of now, he's served almost half of that. The sentence is due to expire Sept. 23, 2013.
The judge's decision means Seers' total jail term has been lessened by 1 1/2 years.
The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to one charge of break and enter with the intent to commit an indictable offence and one count of breaching probation.
He's one of the men who forced their way into a Mackenzie Street home in the east end of St. John's in April 2009 and brutally assaulted the homeowners - an elderly man and woman - before making off with $4,000.
Victim impact statements filed to the court by Dave and Georgina Carey tell how their lives have changed forever.
Dave Carey, who was bludgeoned with a hammer during the attack, suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and is still unable to work.
Georgina, who had a gun pointed at her head and was dragged by her hair across the house, had said she and her husband don't feel safe anymore and may be forced to sell their house.
The couple was again sitting in the back of the courtroom to hear the judge's decision, but chose not to speak to reporters afterwards.
"I have characterized this as a senseless act," Thompson said, "a wanton, unrestrained exercise of grave violence.
"It's unacceptable and inexcusable."
However, the judge pointed out that in this jurisdiction, the upper end of sentences for such offences are in the eight-year range. He said exceptions are made only for the most "egregious crimes" and for offenders with lengthy criminal records which include numerous serious offences.
He said while Seers has a long record, it includes mostly non-violent crimes, such as thefts, break-and-enters and court breaches.
He said the seriousness of Seers' crimes only escalated in recent years after his mother died.
Thompson said while Seers had a difficult childhood and has struggled with addictions, he is emotionally stable, logical and has prospects to improve his life.
As part of Seers' sentence, he must submit a DNA sample and is prohibited from having a firearm for 20 years.
Of the three men convicted of the home invasion, Seers' was the final sentencing.
Last month, Steven Peter Clowe was sentenced to eight years in jail.
Dean Lewis was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in jail. He got 18 months credit for time served in pre-trial custody.
Lewis didn't enter the house, but showed the men where the house was located.
He's appealing his conviction and sentence.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TelyCourt