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Coutts protester sentenced to 10 months for dangerous driving, assault of RCMP officer

In a Lethbridge court room Monday, Crown and defence lawyers made their sentencing arguments in the case of a southern Alberta man found guilty of assault with a weapon and dangerous driving. The man received a sentence of 10 months. (Google Street View  - image credit)
In a Lethbridge court room Monday, Crown and defence lawyers made their sentencing arguments in the case of a southern Alberta man found guilty of assault with a weapon and dangerous driving. The man received a sentence of 10 months. (Google Street View - image credit)

A southern Alberta man has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for driving his vehicle at a police officer who was standing at a checkstop during the 2022 border blockade at Coutts, Alta.

James Sowery, 37, was found guilty last year of accelerating his hydrovac truck toward Const. Cory Kornicki, who had been conducting traffic stops along Highway 4, near Milk River, on Feb. 14, 2022. Kornicki had to jump to safety.

Sowery was convicted of assault with a weapon and dangerous driving last March.

On Monday in Lethbridge, the Crown and defence presented their sentencing arguments.

The Crown was seeking a 12-month jail sentence, while Sowery's lawyer was asking for a conditional sentence of 12 to 18 months to be served in the community, with exceptions to attend his children's extracurricular activities.

Justice Glen Poelman told the court that a period of incarceration in a custodial facility "is the only form of sentence that will emphasize the very serious consequences the conduct such as Mr. Sowery engaged in February 14, 2022."

Poelman settled on a 10-month jail sentence for each conviction, to be served concurrently.

Kornicki, who was not physically injured during the incident, said in his victim impact statement that the mental and emotional scars remain.

"I was in shock and reduced to tears on the side of the highway.… It is truly difficult to communicate the depth this trauma has reached after the events of the day," he said in his statement, which was delivered by one of the Crown prosecutors.

While delivering his sentence, Poelman said "there's no doubt the views of Mr. Sowery and some of his fellow protesters had some merit." However, he added this did not justify scaring Kornicki "and bringing him within a whisker of a serious or fatal injury."

Sowery apologized to Kornicki through a statement read by his lawyer, Nicole Stewart.

"I am very sorry that what occurred that day scared you to that extent.… I hope you are able to recover and move forward," read the statement.

Sowery also apologized to his own family and thanked them for continuing to support him.

Along with the 10-month jail sentence, Sowery was given a mandatory weapons prohibition.