Defence for Ann Senack attempts to shift blame for fatal crash on to the victims

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Pembroke – The first week in the trial of Ann Senack, the 63-year-old former bartender charged with serving alcohol to four young men prior to two of them dying in a car crash, ended with her defence counsel attempting to shift the blame from her to the four young men involved in the deadly crash.

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.

She 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 short time after they left the bar and drove off in a car driven by Mr. Hanniman.

The trial began last week and spectators through the virtual courtroom were able to get a glimpse of the approach her defence team will take in shifting the blame away from their client. Led by Michael Edelson, one of Canada’s top litigators, he and associate Tony Paciocco cross-examined some Crown witnesses and introduced evidence alleging the four under-aged men were likely drinking alcohol in their car prior to and following the time they spent at Shooters.

The trial does not have a jury and is being presided over by Justice Hugh Fraser. He will deliver the final verdict at the conclusion of the proceedings.

When the trial began last Monday, Mrs. Senack pled not guilty all charges. Assistant Crown-Attorney Richard Morris introduced evidence that included three 45-minute video recordings from inside the bar.

The time-stamped recordings showed a group of five men, the fifth being Alex Markus who later left alone in a separate vehicle, walking into the bar around 9:30 p.m. where they were served by the accused. Over the next two hours were seen on tape drinking on average nine drinks in that time span, including beers, mixed drinks and shooters.

Video evidence also captured the young men drinking outside in the Shooter’s parking lot prior to getting into the vehicle and leaving the bar on Calabogie Road towards Renfrew.

In addition to the video recordings, Mr. Morris called Enrico DeFrancesco as an expert witness in in the area of serving alcohol through the provincial Smart Serve program. An Algonquin College professor, the witness is also a former bartender, nightclub manager and Smart Serve instructor and has years of experience in training individuals through the program.

He outlined how to identify if a person exhibits signs of intoxication and how not to serve individuals to the point of intoxication. He also provided course materials highlighting the fact servers are legally responsible for intoxicated guests until they become sober again.

As a person who graduated the Smart Serve program, Mrs. Senack would have been instructed about three key areas that are taught as part of the Smart Serve course and that includes the ability to keep track of the number and composition of drinks. He stressed it was one of the most important components of the Smart Serve program.

Along with video recordings taken from cameras inside the bar, additional video evidence included clips from one of the victim’s cell phones and they were shown to the court.

Justice Fraser allowed the short clips to be entered into evidence and some of them showed the young men drinking a combination of beer, mixed drinks and single shots while sitting and dancing over the course of two hours.

A time stamped video clip showed two of the young men, including Mr. Hanniman who drove the car when it crashed into the side of a rock-face on Calabogie Road, chugging the last bit of beer straight out of a pitcher only five minutes before they left.

On Friday, Mr. Edelson and Mr. Paciocco had the opportunity to cross examine some of the Crown witnesses, including Mr. DeFrancesco. They argued the 51 drinks served to the five teenagers only worked out to 25.53 standard drinks as based on the testimony given by the witness when he explained the measurement of drinks. They contend that not all of the young men consumed the same amount of alcohol.

The video introduced by Mr. Morris recorded the five men drinking two pitchers of beer, four bottles of beer, five Rum and Coke, two Caesars, 21 Polar Bear shots, two Porn Star shots, three Burt Reynolds shots and four shots of tequila in a two-hour time period.

Mr. Paciocco led most of the questioning on Friday and when he concluded his cross-examination, he informed the court the defence was going to focus on the actions of the young men, and that included evidence showing some of them going to their vehicle to drink alcohol.

Among the evidence to be used to advance their theory are photos of the crash scene that showed beer bottles and cans spread out across the roadway. Another photo showed a 15 pack of beer and an empty beer can inside the car.

Because of COVID-19, the trial is taking place via video link in the Ontario Court of Justice. It will resume on Monday, April 26 and is expected to use five full days that week. Four weeks have been set aside for the trial and if needed, future dates reserved for case are May 10-14 and July 20-21.