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.
“He went onto the sidewalk, he killed Kristi.”
Fekre and his lawyer left court without commenting on the verdict.
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