David Ryan had nothing to say as he left the courtroom, while on the other side of the room, the mother of the man he helped beat to death cried.
Ryan walked out a free man, having been sentenced to time served at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Monday, three weeks after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
In making his decision on sentencing, Justice Alphonsus Faour accepted an agreed recommendation, presented during the sentencing hearing March 13, by Crown prosecutors Vikas Khaladkar and Mike Murray, along with defence lawyers Bob Buckingham and John Brooks.
“Mr. Ryan will have an opportunity to put his life back together,” Faour said, “an opportunity Richard Brace never had.”
Brace was found bleeding, unconscious and unresponsive at a house on Water Street in Carbonear on July 1, 2005. Hours before, the 29-year-old Green’s Harbour man had been brutally beaten three times by a 16-year-old male and Ryan. The attacks were incited by Brace’s girlfriend, Ashley Wheadon, who had accused Brace of cheating on her and stealing $35 from her.
When he was taken to hospital, Brace was declared brain dead and died of a hemorrhage three days later.
But while Ryan didn’t get a prison term this time, the 54-year-old had already served almost seven years behind bars for what he did.
Ryan was jailed in 2005 after Brace’s death. In May 2007, he was found guilty of second-degree murder following a lengthy trial in which he represented himself. He was sentenced to life in jail without the possibility of parole for 16 years.
However, in February 2012, the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.
The appeals panel pointed out that Ryan, a man with limited education, could not fully understand the legalities of the trial and was unable to conduct a proper defence.
Ryan was released on bail in March 2012 after the Appeal Court decision.
Faour agreed that the six years, seven months and 29 days that Ryan had already served in jail puts his total sentence within the range for manslaughter, even with Ryan’s criminal record considered.
Ryan was convicted of manslaughter in 1999 in connection with the stabbing death of his half-sister, Pauline Lane. He was given a five-year jail sentence.
In his recent manslaughter case, the judge said when credit for time served is considered, together with the statutory remission, for which all prisoners are entitled, time served would mean a sentence between 11 and 13 years.
Faour pointed out that Ryan has already served more time that his two co-accused.
The youth, who did most of the beating to Brace, was also convicted of manslaughter and was given a three-year youth sentence in secure custody — the highest sentence that could be rendered for a youth.
Wheaton pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a conditional sentence of two years less a day.
The judge acknowledges that heavy consumption of alcohol and drugs clouded Ryan’s judgment that night. He also noted that since being released form jail two years ago, Ryan has abided by all conditions of his release, including abiding by a curfew, abstaining from alcohol and reporting to police weekly.
Faour said he hopes Ryan stays sober.
“His future depends on his ability to continue on that path,” he said.
The judge said there were two tragedies as a result of this offence.
“The first, and biggest loss, was the death of Richard Brace in a senseless and brutal act,” Faour said.
“I’ve heard from (Brace’s) family and they continue to have pain after almost nine years. Nothing this court does can remedy that. It cannot bring back Richard Brace.
“The second is the state that Mr. Ryan put himself into to cause him to cause this death.”
Faour agreed Ryan’s guilty plea has saved the family the strain of a lengthy trial.
Brace’s mother, Carolyn Sooley, wiped tears throughout proceedings Monday. Before leaving the courtroom, she hugged Khaladkar.