DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — A Fort St. John man was sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter last week in a Dawson Creek courtroom, over six years after an altercation at a Hedley concert led to the death of a fellow concert-goer from Fort St. John.
28-year-old Jason Foster, who is a native of Manitoba but was living in Fort St. John, attended a Hedley concert at the Encana Events Centre with a group of people including his cousin on Valentine’s Day 2012. A fellow Fort St. John resident, Levi Morris who was 21 years old at the time, was also at the concert that evening with two of his friends.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the two groups were walking past each other when Foster’s cousin bumped into Morris, spilling his beer onto him. After not receiving an apology, Morris and his group followed Foster and his cousin into a nearby washroom.
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A verbal confrontation ensued inside the washroom, after which a shoving match began between Foster’s cousin and Morris’ friends. Both Morris and Foster exited the washroom shortly thereafter to discover the physical altercation outside. Believing Foster was going to attack his friends, Morris punched Foster once in the head before striking him two or three more times while he was on the ground.
The punches caused blunt force injuries to Foster’s head and neck including to his right vertebral artery, rendering him unconscious. He never regained consciousness, and was declared dead after he was taken off life support later that night. Meanwhile Morris and his friends left the concert immediately, and Morris only learned about what happened to Foster after he was arrested by the RCMP later that night.
Morris was charged with manslaughter in January of 2016, nearly four years after the incident. The Crown said that the delay was caused by a large number of staff changes at the local RCMP detachment, causing the investigation to start and stop several times. He pleaded guilty to the charge on May 7th.
In her verdict that was handed down on May 9th and published last Tuesday, Madame Justice Neena Sharma said that though his actions led directly to Foster’s death, Morris’ actions were motivated by self-defence. Justice Sharma also explained that after moving to Fort St. John from Kamloops, Morris has been steadily employed, and has been described as “respectful, polite, honest, and very hard-working.”
The judge also noted that Moris pleaded guilty to the charge at the first possible chance, and addressed Mr. Foster’s family directly in court, apologizing for what he done, and acknowledging that their pain was “immeasurable.”
Sharma sentenced Morris to one year of incarceration and a 10-year ban on owning a firearm, though he will be able to use a firearm to hunt provided he is in the company of his father. He will also need to provide a DNA sample. The Crown was asking for two years in prison, while the defence was hoping for a conditional sentence.