By Alberta Newspaper Group on January 31, 2024.
A southern Alberta man found guilty last year of dangerous driving at the Coutts border protests and assault with a weapon against an RCMP officer, has been sentenced to 10 months in jail.
The sentence is two months less than what the Crown sought, but a significant departure from the conditional sentence order and house arrest asked for by defence counsel for James Edward Sowery.
“The importance of general deterrence and denunciation require a period of incarceration in a custodial facility,” said Justice Glen H. Poelman on Monday in Court of King’s Bench at Lethbridge.
“That is the only form of sentence that will emphasize the very serious consequences that conduct such as Mr. Sowery engaged in on Feb. 14, 2022.”
Last March, jurors deliberated for about six hours before founding Sowery guilty to deliberately accelerating his hydrovac truck toward RCMP officer Const. Cory Kornicki, who had been conducting traffic stops along Highway 4 near Milk River during the Coutts border blockade and protest.
During trial, Sowery said he did not intentionally swerve, but the officer testified he had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck.
Kornicki estimated Sowery was driving about 80 km/hr, while Sowery guessed his speed was closer to 60 km/hr.
Sowery said that as he approached the check stop, the officer waved at him, and he thought the officer was waving goodbye, not telling him to stop.
Sowery was pulled over shortly afterward and immediately got out of his truck, knelt on the ground and put his hands in the air, the jury heard.
Defence said Sowery was compliant and co-operated with police when he was arrested, and while it would have been wiser for him to slow down, his actions did not constitute dangerous driving or assault with a weapon.
“Mr. Sowery came very close to striking Const. Kornicki, and the slightest miscalculation on Mr. Sowery’s part, or unexpected movement by Const. Kornicki, would have resulted in serious injury or death,” Poelman said.
Poelman noted that even though Sowery doesn’t have a criminal record, is generally a person of good character, has the support of many family and friends, and was “mostly” not critical of police conduct at the protest, his actions were motivated by his political views of COVID-19 restrictions.
“A society governed by the rule of law must firmly and clearly state that weaponizing political views will result in sanctions, even on those whose record is otherwise good,” Poelman said.
A pre-sentence report indicates that Sowery is not remorseful, “(lack) any insight into how his actions may have impacted the victim of the offence or the community as a whole.”
In addition to his jail sentence, Sowery is prohibited from possessing weapons, but is not prohibited from driving, as was requested by the Crown.