Lawyers are asking anywhere between three to five years behind bars for the Laval motorist who hit and killed a Laval teenager last fall.
But the sentencing judge hinted he didn’t think the crown’s suggestion – five years – was enough for Robert Bélanger. His lawyer recommended three years. The family and friends of Bélanger’s young victim are outraged and don’t believe the suggestions are nearly enough.
Sentencing arguments for the 23-year-old took place Tuesday morning at the Laval courthouse.
Bélanger pleaded guilty in April to dangerous driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident causing death. At the time, Bélanger was driving with an invalid driver’s licence and he had several other driving violations.
Ronia Mansourian was crossing the street during lunch hour with her friends near their high school in Laval in September when Bélanger hit and killed her.
Bélanger looked off to the side with a furrowed brow as two of Mansourian’s family members tearfully told the court in victim impact statements how empty their lives are now that Mansourian was gone.
One of the girl’s aunts, Anoush Mansourian, threw Bélanger defiant, dirty looks when she approached the stand and during her address to the court.
She said in their eyes, Bélanger is a murderer and a coward who hid behind his crimes. She said her niece will never enjoy the milestones they enjoy: Sweet 16, grad, first job, love, marriage, a first child.
Mansourian’s older sister Goldy sobbed as she told the judge that her sister completed her and that without her,she is lost and empty.
The 21-year-old said she looked forward to going home to her sister’s smile, laughs and jokes and that now going home is a scary feeling.
“We are all living in a series of bad nightmares,” she said.
“We as a family are changed forever, our life is transformed, smashed to the ground. This is the worst experience of our lives.”
Goldy Mansourian’s address to the court then took a harsher tone as she condemned dangerous drivers.
“Enough is enough. How many people have to die before we realize we don’t need dangerous drivers?” she asked.
“If we let him out, what will happen to society? Who will protect us from dangerous drivers like him?”
Goldy Mansourian said if you commit the crime, you need to man up and accept the consequences. She said she didn’t feel safe knowing drivers like Bélanger are around.
“Let justice be served today for Ronia’s sake.”
Bélanger’s mother, girlfriend and other friends and family were sitting in the front row on one side of the courtroom. Over a dozen seats on the other side were filled with Mansourian’s family members and friends, all wearing black T-shirts with her name and an image of an angel in her memory.
The judge asked Bélanger if he had anything to say and if he understood the Mansourian family’s pain and that he was responsible for her death.
In a shaky voice, the young man wearing a white tshirt and sporting a close-cropped haircut told the court he was sorry for what he did.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m ready to respect all the conditions,” Bélanger said.
The Mansourian family doesn’t buy it.
“I don’t think he understands anything. I think he understands the consequences now because he’s directly facing them,” Anoush Mansourian told reporters.
“He has no choice but to face what he’s up against, and even at that, he’s not up against much. Five years is peanuts.”
As Bélanger’s lawyer was making her case for a three year sentence, Quebec Court Judge Gilles Garneau pointed out that her client may have alcohol and drug problems, but that it’s his behaviour problems that have gotten him into trouble in the past. Garneau said to avoid his problems, Bélanger jumps in his car and flees from police, calling his actions excessively dangerous. Garneau said he wasn’t convinced the crown’s sentence was sufficient.
“As for his remorse, it comes after the fact,” Garneau said.
“The only reason he can’t flee now is because he’s behind bars.”
Before the hearing ended, Garneau addressed Mansourian’s family, telling them he understands and sympathizes with them, adding that no sentence can replace Ronia’s life.
“There are very difficult steps to go through and there is one the family still has not breached. I urge you to do so as quickly as possible if you want to live your life as (Ronia) would have wanted you to.”
Garneau hands down his sentence in a week.