Ramage case bogged down in Ontario courts

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:54 PM ET

Six years and 31 days: That’s how much time has passed since the late afternoon automobile crash that ended Keith Magnuson’s life.

And Rob Ramage has yet to spend so much as a night in jail.

Magnuson was killed in the well-documented car crash on Rutherford Rd. in Vaughan on Dec. 21, 2003, with Ramage behind the wheel of their rental car, and an innocent victim, a Concord mom named Michelle Pacheco, having her life inexorably altered in the tragic ordeal.

And still there is no conclusion to this mess.

Still, the Ontario court system muddles forward, with no certainty when any answers — or justice — will be known.

This much we do know: Ramage, the former Maple Leafs captain and by every account a decent, solid man who made a horrible mistake, was found guilty on Oct. 10, 2007 in a Newmarket court of impaired driving causing death.

For the record, that was two years and three months ago. The conviction was in October; the sentencing didn’t take place for another four months.

That day, in January 2008, Judge Alexander Sosna essentially threw the book at Ramage. He wasn’t interested in celebrity justice of any kind. He didn’t care much that Ramage was a well-known hockey player when he sentenced him to four years in prison, which was deemed by those who know such things as an extremely harsh sentence.

That day, outside the court building, Ramage’s attorney, Brian Greenspan, wasted no time in announcing his intent to appeal both the conviction and the sentence, which he believed was overt.

Greenspan said he expected to be back in court in about a year, and prosecutor Paul Tait agreed with the time frame, hoping to put some kind of conclusion to the Ramage conviction.

Except a year went by. And then another year. And here we are today and still no answers.

“By the grace of God, I stand here today. For that I am blessed,” Ramage said before the judge two years and three months ago.

He is also blessed by a justice system that plods along, allowing him along the way to coach his son John and watch him win a gold medal playing for Team USA at the world junior championship.

A date of March 1 has been booked, not for the appeal of Ramage’s case, but for the right to appeal.

This is how it works in Ontario.

You lose a case and you can appeal. Then you go before the appeals court to determine whether you have the grounds for an appeal. So this happens on March 1 —and who knows how long that will go on for — and then if an appeal if determined, another trial is ordered.

And the only thing we know about that is it won’t happen quickly. Nothing, in this case happens quickly.

Gilbert Arenas, the basketball player, almost certainly will be in jail and maybe out of jail before Ramage ever begins his sentence, assuming he ever begins his sentence.

By contrast, Arenas out-headlined Ramage by having unregistered runs in the locker-room of the Washington Wizards. He became a focal point of national and international attention — essentially for a crime with all kinds of perceived idiocy but no real victims, except Arenas himself.

The only person injured by his indiscretion was himself.

Ramage was not so fortunate. He has to live the rest of his life, in jail or not, knowing what he did. His actions killed a friend. Testimony at the trial indicated quite clearly that he crossed four lanes of a busy street in rush hour and collided head on with the SUV Ms. Pacheco was driving in the opposite direction.

By hearing the testimony, only one of two things really seemed logical then: Either he was drunk or he had fallen asleep at the wheel to lose control of his vehicle in such a matter. Or possibly, one led to the other.

In the end, there was a dead body in the passenger seat and an injured mom driving home from work in the SUV.

Six years and 31 days ago Keith Magnuson died. This case should have been resolved long ago.


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