A Toronto man who struck and killed a woman and her dog on a Leslieville sidewalk in April 2015 has been found not guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
“If you’re going to walk on the downtown streets of Toronto maybe you should put a crash helmet on,” Kristy Hodgson’s grieving father John Hodgson said moments after learning the verdict.
“With a bicycle lane, with people walking on the sidewalk and everything, you don’t take your eyes off the road for a split second,” he added.
In surveillance video submitted as evidence during the case, 31-year-old Kristy Hodgson can be seen walking her two beloved Whippets Indy and Betty on Dundas Street East, approaching Carlaw Avenue on a sunny afternoon.
Seconds later, a black Honda Civic driven by Gideon Fekre, who was 18 years old at the time, crosses a bike lane and mounts the sidewalk.
Hodgson was critically injured. She died a few days later in hospital. Her dog Betty, also killed.
Fekre claimed he was reaching for a water bottle that had fallen on the floor of the car near the brake pedal.
“I took my eyes off the road for just a second” is how Fekre himself described it in his testimony.
Justice Peter Bawden said the big question in the case is, “Was it a marked departure from what a reasonable driver would have done?” referring to the Fekre reaching for the water bottle.
He later concluded that it was “best described as a momentary lapse of judgement.”
Fekre was found not guilty.
Justice Bawden spent time delivering his decision. He noted that Fekre called 9-1-1, waited until the police arrived, was distraught and repeatedly asked about the well-being of the victim.
“If you watch that video it was much more than a momentary lapse,” friend of Hodgson’s Luci White said. “This decision means that everybody walking down the sidewalk can be mowed down by any vehicle without any accountability.”
“Whether it’s a momentary lapse or a longer sustained lapse of inattention, what difference does it make?” Luci’s husband Mike White said.
Fekre and his lawyer left court without commenting on the verdict.