Wild ride earns $17K penalty and probation

Joseph Graham, 20, was sentenced Monday in Campbell River provincial court after being convicted of robbery and dangerous driving

A young man won’t be going to jail for stealing and crashing a car while high on acid, but a judge has ordered him to repay a former neighbour more than $17,000.

Joseph Graham, 20, was sentenced Monday in Campbell River provincial court after being convicted of robbery and dangerous driving.

Graham, who has been diagnosed with a mood disorder, had never been in trouble with the law until April 2, 2012, when he swallowed 5-7 hits of acid.

As a result, he suffered serious delusions, thought he was dead and had an overpowering desire to get away from his mother’s house that morning.

Wearing only track pants and carrying a knife, Graham walked into a neighbour’s garage where he threatened Dave Denton and demanded his keys.

Denton, who has Parkinson’s and Crohn’s Disease, immediately complied.

Graham sped away from the residence in Denton’s new Nissan Leaf electric car and drove dangerously through the city, reaching speeds of 100-120 kilometres per hour. He was finally forced off the road by other drivers and crashed the car near the top of General Hill on Highway 28.

“During the course of that ride, he placed a number of other motorists in serious danger. It is only by blind luck that none of them were injured or killed,” wrote Judge Ted Gouge in his decision.

As for Denton’s experience, the judge added, “Mr. Denton was, understandably, terrified. His physical condition, consequent on his Parkinson’s disease, has deteriorated as a result of the trauma in these events.”

Since his arrest that day, Graham has abided by all his bail conditions. He has the support of his family, works with his father and is taking college business courses.

In psychiatric reports prepared for the court, Graham is described as a very low risk to re-offend and that jail would not serve any beneficial purpose.

“He’s shown remorse. He feels awful about the robbery and making Mr. Denton feel scared in his own home. For the moment he’s done this, he’s felt ashamed,” said defence counsel Dennis Evans at an early court hearing. “A custodial sentence would be harmful to his mental health.”

Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons had asked for a custodial sentence because the robbery resulted in a personal injury to Denton. But on Monday, Judge Gouge said jail wasn’t the answer.

“I think that the best hope for protection of the public and for Mr. Graham’s rehabilitation lies in an extended period of probation which will assist him to address his psychiatric illness and restrain him from the use of street drugs,” the judge said.

Graham was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to not contact the Denton family or go near their residence.

The judge also ordered him to repay Denton $17,300 in instalments of $150.

The judgement comes from the $300 insurance deductible that Denton had to pay, plus $17,000 for the depreciation for the car due to its crash history.