Justice system stalled in Ramage case

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Justice creeps along ever so slowly in the apparent case against the former Maple Leafs captain, Rob Ramage.

It is nearing three years since the tragic car accident on Rutherford Road in Vaughan took the life of Keith Magnuson, the longtime Chicago Blackhawks player and coach and there still is no trial.

Only a trial date.

Two fathers travelled just north of Toronto to the funeral of former hockey player Keith McCreary on a wet December day in 2003.

Only one of them ever made his way home.

Ramage, police allege, was the driver of the rented Chrysler Intrepid. Magnuson, apparently, was the passenger.

Within days of the crash, police charged Ramage, once the first pick in the 1979 entry draft, with dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing death, unlawfully operating a vehicle dangerous to the public.

Significant charges, all of them.

But since then, almost nothing has happened promptly.

If justice delayed is, in fact, justice denied, there is some explaining to do here -- at least to the Magnuson family.

The preliminary hearing in the case against Ramage took place in April 2005 -- some 17 months after the fatal accident. Another 17 months have since passed.

Some people believe this case has been settled, that's how long it has been out of the public eye. Some believe that a plea bargain was agreed to, which isn't the case.

And while it may be in Ramage's best interest to strike a deal, there is still a quiet vigilance on the part of the York Region Crown Attorney's office to take this to trial.

The actual trial date is set for Jan. 8, 2007.

The date is considered tentative because even those involved wonder if it will commence at that time.

According to York Region Crown attorney Paul Tait, there exists the possibility that the scheduled date may have to be extended. Tait denies this has anything to do with whatever celebrity status Ramage may or may not have, but he did not offer a plausible explanation as to why this case has proceeded at a snail's pace.

"His lawyer is involved in a lengthy trial in Toronto," said Tait, explaining the current delay. His lawyer is the well- known Brian Greenspan, he of the Alan Eagleson defence and a roster of other well-known clients.

The fact that Ramage is a decent man, a former major league hockey player and has a big-time lawyer should not buy him additional time or any favour before trial.

It should not buy him any break at all.

What must be determined before a court is who, if anyone, is responsible for the death of Magnuson.

That can't be misplaced in any way here.

Two months before Magnuson's death, hockey player Dany Heatley drove a car that ended up killing his teammate, Dan Snyder, in Atlanta. That was in September 2003. By February 2005, Heatley was sentenced to three years probation and community service.

The time frame for the case: Seventeen months.

On March 8, 2004, Todd Bertuzzi struck hockey player Steve Moore from behind, effectively ending Moore's career. The criminal court dealt with Bertuzzi in December of that year.

The time frame for that case: Eight months.

Hockey player Mike Danton was arrested in a murder for hire plot involving his agent, David Frost, in April 2004. By July, he had pleaded guilty to the crime.

The time for that case: Three months.

Why has the case against Rob Ramage taken more than three years to come to trail?

Because it's still before the courts and because there is still a jury pool to select, Tait doesn't want to comment on any particulars about the case.

But someone needs to comment on why this has taken so long. This may be justice for Ramage and his family in St. Louis.

This is justice for no one else.

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