Legal history made as trial for Ann Senack begins in Pembroke

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Pembroke – This past Monday the virtual court room for the trial of Ann Senack of Calabogie was so crowded several onlookers were relegated to a virtual waiting room.

There has been a great deal of interest in the case since she was charged in 2019 with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to the single vehicle crash which killed two members of the Renfrew Timberwolves team and seriously injured two others. The 64-year-old bartender pled not guilty to all charges in relation to the single vehicle crash near Burnstown that killed Renfrew teenagers Brandon Hanniman and Alex Paquette in the early morning of October 28, 2017.

Both young men, along with fellow Renfrew Timberwolves hockey players Ben Scheuneman and Jake McGrimmon, were all 18 at the time. Ms. Senack was working at the now closed Shooters Bar and Grill in Calabogie and it is alleged she served alcohol to one or more of the four under-aged victims prior to the fatal collision on Calabogie Road just a few minutes after they left the bar and drove off in a car driven by Mr. Hanniman. Mr. Hanniman, known as “Hanny” by his team-mates, passed away at the scene. Mr. Paquette, known as “Package” by his teammates, died the following day.

The trial is considered precedent setting in many ways by many in the area. Some felt so strongly Mrs. Senack was being treated as a scapegoat they started funding for her legal defence, raising over $50,000 in the process. While civil lawsuits are common in cases involving drunk driving, it is much rarer to see criminal charges laid.

The start of the trial began with extensive video evidence of the teens drinking at the bar and being served by the accused before leaving

Renfrew County Assistant-Crown Attorney Richard Morris is the lead prosecutor and he introduced three time-stamped video clips, roughly 45 minutes each, on the live feed. The clips were from a camera inside Shooters Bar & Grill and another from what appears to be the parking lot. Contained in the footage are images show five young men entering the bar around 9:45 on that Wednesday night.

It also filmed Mrs. Senack sitting with the same group and talking with them and then she left the table to check on something at the bar and then returned a short time later. She served the men their first round of shots and pitchers. According to the time stamp the video captured the young men drinking three rounds of shots, two pitchers, mixed drinks and some food all within the first 30 minutes of their arrival.

The video evidence showed the young men began drinking shortly before 10 pm. Within the first half hour of arriving at the bar, three rounds of shots, two pitchers, mixed drinks and some food had been served (roughly from 9:50 pm to 10:10 pm). Over the next hour they are seen drinking another five rounds of shots delivered to their table and those were combined with individual beers and other mixed drinks.

Alex Marcus, identified as the fifth member of the group, left separately around 11:30 and used another vehicle to leave the bar.

According to the time stamp on the video the remaining four young men left the bar and entered the car driven by Mr. Hanniman. They all had an additional drink prior to them leaving the bar shortly before midnight. The car drove onto Calabogie Road (County Road 508) and proceeded to head east until the vehicle smashed into a rock face short time later. Three of the young men were thrown from the car when it came to a stop a few kilometers from Burnstown.

The trial continued yesterday with Mr. Morris calling the first several witnesses. Once again, the interest in the trial made it challenging for those wishing to watch via ZOOM. The trial is expected to last a minimum of two weeks with the option of adding additional dates if required.

Ms. Senack’s defence team is led by well-known and high-profile Ottawa lawyer Michael Edelson. He is familiar to area residents for his defence of Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis. She retained his services after she was charged with impaired driving causing the death of Bryan Casey on March 31, 2011. Mr. Edelson has also represented former Air Force Colonel Williams and former Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien.

There has been a great deal of interest in the case and especially the prosecution of Mrs. Senack. Shortly after she was charged with the four counts in January 2019 by members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), a Go-Fund-Me page was established by her friends and family and they raised more than $50,000 and retained Mr. Edelson.

He is recognized as one of the top defence attorneys in Canada and he will present the defence after Mr. Morris has completed the case for the prosecution.

If found guilty on all charges, Mrs. Senack faces a lengthy prison and could be sentenced up to ten years or more. She has been free on bail and has not served any jail time and in the event she is sentenced to prison she will not be eligible for having time shaved off her sentence for time served.