Tears flowed in the body of a Chatham courtroom when a defendant turned and nodded his head to family and friends as he was handcuffed and escorted away by an officer of the court on Friday.
An Ontario Court judge had just finished sentencing Paul Nahdee, 35, of Walpole Island to 18 months in jail followed by three years probation for driving drunk and causing the death of his best friend, Stephen Smith.
In January, Nahdee pleaded guilty to the charge but waited until his sentencing hearing to address the court.
"I just want to get on with my life to be a role model for other aboriginal people, to share my story of breaking the law and help someone make a better decision," Nahdee told the judge.
"I thank all who have supported me," he added.
Court heard Nahdee, Smith, who was 21 at the time, and another friend were heading south on Highway 40 when Nahdee crashed his 1988 Ford Mustang through a steel guardrail on Dufferin Avenue after missing a stop sign at about 4:40 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2012.
The car travelled 30 metres into a farm field before coming to a stop.
A front seat passenger helped Nahdee out of the driver's seat, and together, the two men pulled Smith out of the back seat onto the ground.
Court heard the defendant immediately started CPR and chest compressions.
Smith was pronounced dead in hospital about 40 minutes later.
Two samples taken from Nahdee produced readings of 129 and 134 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
Justice Paul Kowalyshyn cited case law and sections of the criminal code during his sentencing remarks.
The judge noted the support Nahdee received from his relatives and community, including the parents of his deceased friend.
In his victim impact statement, Smith's father told court the couple did not want to see Nahdee go to jail.
Court heard Smith's mother gave Nahdee a hug in the hospital after dealing with the grief of losing her son and told the defendant, "everything will be OK."
The victim impact statement included Nahdee has helped the Smith's with chores around the house, like his friend would have done, but Kowalyshyn noted a change by parliament means a conditional sentence is no longer available to consider as an appropriate sanction.
The judge said while Nahdee battled alcoholism since the age of 14, he had not consumed liquor since the crash and has attended counselling and programs to deal with alcohol and substance abuse.
"No doubt his problems grew out of community and social circumstances he grew up in," Kowalyshyn said.
In addition to a two-year driving prohibition started in January, Nahdee was ordered to provide police a sample of his blood for the DNA bank and to not possess any weapons for 10 years.