Ex-Leafs captain gets parole

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage arrives at Newmarket court in this September 2007...

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Rob Ramage arrives at Newmarket court in this September 2007 file photo. (QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

We still don’t take drunk driving as the serious crime that it is.

How else to explain the farce of ex-Leaf captain Rob Ramage receiving his get out of jail free card Thursday after serving just 10 months of a four-year sentence for killing former Chicago Blackhawk Keith Magnuson?

And this was actually his second attempt at day parole.

In March, he had the nerve to apply after just eight months in custody but was turned down by a parole board still unconvinced he really took responsibility for driving drunk in the 2003 crash that killed his friend and injured a Woodbridge mother.

Now two months later, Ramage, 52, suddenly knew the right answers to satisfy the two parole members and he’s expected to be released within days from the minimum security Frontenac Institution to a London halfway house.

Is he getting special treatment because he’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner?

Is this celebrity justice at work?

In some ways, it would be nice to think there’s at least some explanation for his winning such an early checkout. But sadly, says MADD Canada, this is par for the course.

“You really don’t serve the time awarded by the courts,” complains MADD CEO Andrew Murie. “They end up serving one-sixth to one-third of their time actually in prison so it’s nothing new — a lot of our victims are not happy.”

Is this the deterrence Ontario superior court Justice Alexander Sosna envisioned when he sentenced the former hockey player to four years in jail for impaired driving causing death along with concurrent sentences of two years for impaired driving causing bodily harm, four years for dangerous driving causing death and two years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm?

On Dec. 15, 2003, Ramage was driving Magnuson from a funeral reception they’d attended in Bolton for ex-NHLer Keith McCreary when he swerved his rental car across several lanes of traffic into an oncoming SUV on Rutherford Rd. in Woodbridge.

Magnuson died at the scene and Michelle Pacheco, the Concord driver hit head-on in the other car, was injured.

At his 2007 trial, court heard Ramage had a blood-alcohol level almost three times the legal limit, but he denied that he was drunk.

A Crown toxicologist concluded he’d had between 15 and 20 drinks before the crash.

A Newmarket jury took just five hours to convict him.

The Magnuson family, having been awarded $9.5 million US in an American civil suit against Ramage and others, urged the Ontario judge not to send him to jail.

Instead, they suggested Ramage travel North America lecturing young athletes about the dangers of drunk driving.

Wisely, Sosna resisted their appeal.

“The carnage on our roads caused by impaired drivers continues unabated,” he said in January 2008 in imposing a four-year jail term and five-year driving ban.

But free on bail, it then took another 2 1/2 years of his appealing his conviction and sentence before Ramage finally saw the inside of a jail cell last July.

And there he should remain for a good while longer.

Murie of MADD argues Ramage’s four-year sentence was actually on the low end of the scale for a first-time offender.

“It’s generally four to seven,” he says. “And what happens now is defence lawyers are arguing the Ramage case to say their clients should get the same. It’s being used a lot.”

Those watching will now know that four years for killing someone can really mean just 10 months behind bars. What kind of message does that send about how seriously we view drunk driving?

There’s no disputing that Ramage is an otherwise upstanding citizen who filed an impressive 105 letters with the court from people praising his charity and community involvement. There’s little doubt Ramage genuinely feels remorse for causing the death of his good friend and injuring a stranger.

But deterrence is important. Justice is important.

Killing someone after getting behind the wheel drunk is a crime. It’s not an accident. It’s not a mistake. After decades of education, it’s just not acceptable anymore.

Not even for famous hockey players.

Read Mandel Wednesday through Friday. michele.mandel@sunmedia.ca or 416-947-2231


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