Five-year sentence missed the mark
Five-year sentence missed the mark

    Five-year sentence missed the mark

    Criminal sentencing must surely be one of the most difficult jobs a judge faces, requiring the careful balancing of oft-times competing principles such as deterrence and rehabilitation. The sentence that is right for the accused seldom satisfies the victim.

    Generally, judges strike an acceptable - if not perfect - balance between these competing demands. Sometimes, however, they miss the mark.

    The recent case of Henry Danninger is one of these misses - and by a wide margin.

    Danninger, now 30, a Brockville native living in Ottawa as a narcotics dealer at the time, went to an Ottawa bar on the night of December 23, 1998, armed with a knife to confront a friend he suspected had stolen some of his marijuana.

    While there, he got in a confrontation. Andrew Moffitt, 23, also of Brockville, was in the bar celebrating the end of exams at the University of Ottawa. Moffitt tried to break up the altercation when he was stabbed by Danninger.

    Moffitt died from his injuries and Danninger was charged with murder.

    Last fall, Danninger pleaded guilty to manslaughter and on March 27 he was sentenced to five years in prison by Justice Roydon Kealey.

    He will be eligible for parole in less than two years.

    Sentencing is not about vengeance, but a sentence must nonetheless reflect the community's condemnation of such a senseless act. And it must serve to deter not only the killer, but others, from committing similar acts.

    Five years for killing Andrew Moffitt does not do this.

    Henry Danninger went to the Ottawa bar armed for trouble. Meanwhile, Andrew Moffitt was in no way the author of his own misfortune. Surely this should be an aggravating factor.

    There is another reason to question Justice Kealey's rationale for leniency.

    Danninger was given the usual double credit for time spent in pre-trial custody, but his sentence was also reduced in consideration of the strict conditions he was ordered to follow while on bail.

    We question whether time spent out on bail should be used to reduce the sentence in any circumstances, but it was particularly inappropriate in the Danninger case.

    As a court in Brockville heard last week, Danninger did not obey the conditions of his release. In fact, he pleaded guilty to mischief, prowling at night and breaching his recognizance to keep the peace.

    The charges were laid after Danninger was arrested for throwing urine and feces on a neighbour's car while out on bail on the murder charge.

    It's not like Danninger simply snapped or made a one-time mistake, either. He started dumping excrement on his neighbour's vehicle in February 2002 and continued regularly until April 2002, when he was arrested. (Danninger also received a remarkably light sentence, in light of the circumstances, for these crimes - just 30 days in jail).

    Considering Danninger's behaviour while out on bail, it is incomprehensible that Justice Kealey would give Danninger credit for this time.

    Justice Kealey told the Moffitt family it is time to move on with their lives. His decision to impose such a lenient sentence on their son's killer, however, makes it that much more difficult for them to follow his advice.

  • Published in Section A, page 6 in the Friday, April 11, 2003 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times.
  • Posted 4:30:40 PM Friday, April 11, 2003.


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