Emotional sentencing hearing for former corrections worker
Tears were flowing freely during the sentencing hearing for Les Samoleski, who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the hit-and-run death of a 14-year-old girl.
Samoleski was in Prince Albert Provincial Court May 7 for sentencing.
It was an emotionally charged hearing as family members and Samoleski himself spoke about the crime and how it had affected so many people.
The first of the group to speak was Montana’s mother Stephanie. She wore a purple pin with picture of Montana and, after fighting back tears and gathering her strength, she told the court what Montana’s death meant.
“He has taken my girl who was everything to me,” she said. “I thought I had all the time in the world to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her.”
Stephanie remembered Montana as a straight-A student with a beautiful singing voice, a typical lover of Justin Bieber, someone who brought home stray cats and a girl who had aspirations of becoming a nurse.
“A big piece of my world is missing. I don’t know what to say to this man. If I said something it wouldn’t be nice at all.”
By this point many in the small courtroom were already crying when Montana’s aunt Jocelyn
Schraeder delivered her statement, this time directly at Samoleski.
“You will never know what you’ve taken from us,” she said.
“The day you chose to do what you did, you not only killed an absolute angel, but you killed a little part of all of us.”
She told Samoleski about the pain the family went through hearing the news, going to the hospital and learning Montana hadn’t made it. Schraeder spoke of all the things that Montana would miss, like talent shows, science fairs and her Grade 8 grad—the red dress for which she was buried in.
Samoleski requested that he be given the opportunity to speak and for the first time in the proceedings he stood up and addressed the court.
In a shaky voice he told the court that he was haunted by his actions, since he himself had a 17-year-old daughter.
“I can’t imagine the pain and loss you must feel. Not an hour in the day goes by I don’t think about what I’ve done. Remorse, guilt, shame and pain I carry each day,” he said.
“If I could give my life in exchange for Montana’s I would in an instance.”
He also took the time to address his family directly, apologizing for what he had done and admitting that his history of alcohol and prescription drug addiction had seriously harmed his family.
“All I ever wanted was to love, protect and serve you, but I have failed all off you in this,” he said, adding that he said he could serve a sentence in prison but that the most “painful thing is the life sentence I’ve imposed on you (his wife) and our children to shame, grief, remorse and pain.”
He apologized to the residents of Steele Bay and, at the end, as he cried, he looked Montana’s mother in the eyes.
“I am truly sorry for your loss,” he said.
Crown and defence debate sentence
Crown Prosecutor John Morrall asked Judge Stan Loewen for a 3.5 year sentence, as well as several other conditions.
He told the court that Samoleski’s actions were inexcusable and should be made an example of.
“What the accused did was … was cowardly, showed a complete lack of respect for the victim, Montana Netmaker, and the citizens of Steel Bay,” he told the court.
“How could he be such a coward and not stop for the victim when he hit an innocent 14-year-old girl?”
Morrall pointed out that Samoleski had in the past argued 12 prior convictions including three charges for driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08, narcotics possession and trafficking and had in the past served time in custody.
Because of that, Morrall said a long sentence was the only reasonable choice, since nothing had worked in the past.
“He has learned nothing, absolutely nothing from the previous convictions,” Morrall said.
“Rehabilitation has been tried, failed and does not work with this particular accused.”
Meanwhile, defence lawyer Bill Chovin said the court needed to consider Samoleski’s actions in a different light.
He told the court that while that Samoleski’s actions weren’t excusable, they were not actions that were deliberately malicious but rather acts of panic.
“He didn’t know what do and dealt with it in the worst way possible,” he said.
Chovin also pointed out that Samoleski had almost immediately pleaded guilty and had been going through what he considered successful counseling since the incident.
Because of that, he asked for a sentenced between 2 – 2.5 years.
At the end of the submissions, Judge Loewen said it was a serious situation that needed to be considered from all angles to ensure a just outcome.
“It’s a tragedy for everyone here today and I want to make sure … I address everyone’s concerns,” he said.
Loewen called for an adjournment to the following week to make his decision.
Samoleski pleaded guilty to one count of leaving the scene of an accident, careless use of a firearm and breach charges related to his release conditions.
The charges stem from the hit-and-run-death of 14-year-old Montana Stephanie Netmaker, and the subsequent 12-hour standoff between the police and Samoleski.
Loewen will pass his sentence on May 14 at 9:30 a.m.