Marco Muzzo likely to get 'very early' parole: analyst
Published Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:18AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 29, 2016 11:42AM EDT
The Toronto-area drunk driver responsible for the deaths of three children and their grandfather is unlikely to serve his full 10-year sentence behind bars, legal experts say.
Marco Muzzo, 29, was sentenced to 10 years minus time served on Tuesday after pleading guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death, and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. He was also sentenced to a 12-year driving ban. Muzzo's pre-custody time in jail will reduce the term to nine years and four months.
Muzzo was driving when he crashed into a family minivan in Kleinburg, Ont., on Sept. 27. Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harrison, 5, and their sister Milly, 2, were killed in the collision, as was their maternal grandfather, 65-year-old Gary Neville. Two others suffered serious injuries in the collision.
Muzzo had just returned to Toronto from a bachelor party in Miami, and was still drunk when he got behind the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee to drive back to his family home in Vaughan. After the crash, police measured his blood-alcohol level at more than twice the legal limit in Ontario.
Muzzo pleaded guilty to the charges against him earlier this year, and told the court last month that he is "haunted" by the deaths he caused.
In her decision, Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst cited widespread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, and suggested that the associated penalties must rise in light of changing attitudes.
"For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving, yet the message escaped him," Fuerst said in her decision. "It must not escape others."
The Crown had asked for a sentence of between 10 and 12 years, while the defence had argued for an eight-year sentence.
The judge ultimately went with the Crown's recommendation, minus eight months' credit for time Muzzo spent in jail before the trial. Fuerst also cited Muzzo's history of driving offences, including speeding, as she added a 12-year prohibition against him driving.
CTV legal analyst Boris Bytensky says the 10-year sentence is the longest ever for a first-time offender in a drunk driving case. He added that there are mitigating factors that contributed to the sentencing, including Muzzo's decision to forgo a trial and plead guilty.
"If you don't choose to have a trial, if you express your remorse at an earlier stage, you will get (a) slightly less lengthy sentence," he told CTV News Channel. "He did not put the family through a trial, or even a preliminary inquiry."
Muzzo's sentence included nine years and four months for the four deaths, and five years for the two individuals who were injured, to be served concurrently.
CTV legal analyst Edward Prutschi acknowledged that it will be difficult for the public to stomach Muzzo's sentence. "There's no number anyone can give that would be justifiable, I think, from the perspective of the public," he told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday. "You've got four people dead. Three of them are young children."
However, Prutschi said it can be problematic to compare Muzzo's crimes to those of a convicted murderer, for example.
"That's a very colourful metaphor, but… I don't think the comparison between him and a cold-hearted murder is the same," he said. Prutschi suggested that if Muzzo's vehicle had been going slightly faster or slower, it would have missed colliding with the minivan altogether. Instead, he might have been pulled over and hit with a fine for drunk driving, Prutschi said. "It's really seconds that made the difference here and resulted in this horrible tragedy," he said. "All of that flows from his decision."
Muzzo will be eligible for full parole after serving one-third of his time, Prutschi said. He will be up for day-parole six months prior to that point.
Prutschi pointed out that parole is meant to help rehabilitate the individual so they can re-integrate into society.
"The likelihood that he makes parole at one of those early stages is very high, and I suspect that's really what's going to torture people," he said.
Muzzo's 12-year driving prohibition will go into effect once he is released from custody, Bytensky said.
The Crown had argued for an eight- to 10-year prohibition.
Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother of the three children killed in the crash, shared several photos on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the sentencing. Most of the posts included accusations like "#drunkdrivermarcomuzzo killed or harmed all of my family in this photo."