UPDATE: Brain damaged driver sentenced to 3 years jail for fatal crash

Stephen Jenkins speaks to reporters before being sentenced to three years in jail for the 2008 crash that killed Surrey
Stephen Jenkins speaks to reporters before being sentenced to three years in jail for the 2008 crash that killed Surrey's Vanessa Usak (below). Her mom (below with son Cody) believes Jenkins deserves a life sentence.
— image credit: Sheila Reynolds / Black Press

Even as he was walking into the Surrey courthouse – nearly two months after being found guilty of causing a drunken crash that killed a young woman in 2008 – Stephen Jenkins insisted he was not responsible for the death.

Later in the afternoon, Judge Paul Dohm sentenced Jenkins to three years in a federal prison.

In December, Dohm found Jenkins, 42, guilty of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm in the collision that killed 23-year-old Vanessa Usak and seriously injured her passenger and good friend, Andrea Punt.

"I'm innocent," Jenkins said before his sentencing hearing Friday morning. "I have to go to prison for someone else screwing up? She (Usak) is the one who caused the accident, not me. Now I'm paying for it."

Crown prosecutor Susanne Elliott had requested a sentence of between four and five years, while defence lawyer Marvin Stern asked for two to three years prison. Elliott also asked for and received a lifetime driving prohibition, which Jenkins told his lawyer not to dispute.

In his December verdict, Dohm said both Jenkins and Usak were driving while impaired, but that it was Jenkins who crossed the double yellow line and crashed into Usak's Honda with his van near 144 Street and 108 Avenue on July 19, 2008.

Diana Usak, Vanessa's mom, read a victim impact statement in court, which talked about her "polite and pretty" daughter, who worked as a longshoreman and had an older sister and younger brother.

"She was the middle child, the glue of the family," said Diana, adding Vanessa loved to dance and had a beautiful singing voice. "She shined on stage and off stage."

She said nothing short of life in prison would be a just sentence for Jenkins.

"It would help if I thought he was sorry," Diana said, dozens of supporters wearing pink and carrying pink roses surrounding her.

The court heard that Jenkins was the passenger in a prior crash in 1988 that killed two friends and left him with a brain injury that caused ongoing intellectual and behavioural problems, including deficits in memory, concentration and comprehension.

After sentencing, his sister Tracey Jenkins said his brain damage is severe and it's not clear if her brother even understands what has happened. Through tears, with their sobbing mom by her side, she said the family never wanted Stephen behind the wheel after the life-changing accident in the '80s.

"He should have never been given a driver's licence," said Tracey, adding they were powerless to stop one from being issued.

The court heard that Jenkins has no prior criminal record, but a lengthy driving record, including eight driving prohibitions and numerous other road infractions.

The Crown also pointed to the lack of remorse demonstrated by Jenkins.

"Mr. Jenkins hasn't show any insight into his crimes," Elliott said, adding it was just a matter of time before he killed himself or someone else while driving.

Judge Dohm said the case was one in which "no one wins and everyone loses."

He called Jenkins' decision to drive while impaired "stupid" and "selfish" and said he must live his life with the burden of knowing he killed someone. He added while Jenkins' head injury may have played a role in his actions, he was aware of his problems and "took no action" to prevent the crash from occurring.

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