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Guilty Crown wants to keep job

|Written By Kenneth Jackson

NAPANEE, Ont. - A Northumberland County assistant Crown attorney is trying to keep her job after pleading guilty earlier this month to having more than double the legal limit of alcohol in her blood while driving.

Assistant Crown attorney Nancy Rae, centre, leaves the courthouse after pleading guilty in her drunk-driving case. Rae is with an unidentified woman on the left and her boss, Crown attorney David Thompson.

Police first charged Nancy Rae with impaired, over 80, and obstructing a police officer on Nov. 26. On her second court appearance, she pleaded guilty to having more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood while behind the wheel.

She blew 190 twice, but authorities dropped the other charges in light of her guilty plea.

Rae received a one-year driving prohibition, as agreed upon by an out-of-town Crown, and accepted by the presiding judge, who also fined her $1,800.

Rae stood alone when the agreed statement of facts was read in court.

Court heard personal and professional stresses were aggravating her drinking problem when she got behind the wheel of her GMC Suburban while attending a hockey tournament for one of her four children in Napanee, a small town about 200 kilometres east of Toronto.

She was driving along Highway 2 just west of Napanee when Rae’s large vehicle that was crossing over the centre line numerous times forced oncoming motorists off the road at about 4 p.m. They called 911 to report Rae and described her as an “erratic” driver.

A police officer from the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Napanee who caught up to Rae observed her driving in a similar fashion.

After stopping the Suburban near Unger Island Road, the officer detected a strong smell of alcohol on Rae’s breath. Rae, who had blood-stained eyes, said she hadn’t been drinking, according to the agreed statement of facts.

The officer also noticed a blue blanket concealing a container of wine on the floor of the Suburban.

In the back seat sat one of her children, who was described in court as a small child.

Police ordered Rae out of the vehicle, but she refused. She had to be forcibly removed and was verbally “belligerent” to the officer. She had to be restrained.

Police, who took Rae to the Napanee OPP station, administered a breathalyzer that recorded her alcohol readings. She apologized to police for being abusive upon her release.

Jennifer MacLellan, a Crown attorney from Nova Scotia, noted she came to prosecute the case to ensure Rae didn’t receive any special treatment.

Justice Geoffrey Griffin of the Ontario Court of Justice mused that if Rae had injured anyone, she would likely have gone to the penitentiary. “One would have thought she would have cared about her child,” said Griffin.

Rae declined to take the opportunity to address the court. The lawyer of more than 20 years is now trying to get back into the courtroom for a different reason. She wants to keep  her job.

Oshawa, Ont., lawyer Bernie O’Brien, who represented Rae, said outside the court that her employment remains in question. He tells Law Times that nothing has changed since then and that the matter is in the hands of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

“Rae is currently on leave but remains an employee of the ministry,” ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley said in an e-mail. “As human resources matters are confidential, I cannot comment further.”

Rae, who went on medical leave after her arrest, appears to have the support of her boss, Crown attorney David Thompson. He was in the courtroom when Rae pleaded guilty. As he walked out with her following the court proceedings, he at one point tried to protect her by blocking a photographer’s view with his briefcase.

He declined to comment when reached last week. But in a letter he wrote to the court, he offered a glimpse into Rae’s state of mind throughout the ordeal. “I know that she is well aware that she made a mistake,” he wrote. “Nancy indicated a desire, early on, to accept responsibility for her wrongdoing by entering a guilty plea at a very early stage of these proceedings.”

Thompson noted Rae was dealing with personal and professional issues. She had successfully prosecuted a “difficult” homicide investigation in the fall against Marc Vickers, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of Michelle Barnoski in Warkworth, Ont.

That conviction came just a few days before her own arrest.

Rae’s father had also passed away after a long illness in May 2010.

“She has taken steps to address these stresses,” said Thompson. “She has sought and received professional assistance.”

O’Brien said Rae hasn’t drank since her arrest. The help she has been receiving is through counselling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

O’Brien described her mental state at the time as a perfect storm of stress. “She’s had a tough go, a very tough go,” he said outside court. “She’s owned up to the responsibility.”

Defence lawyers in the Northumberland area say Rae’s punishment was typical of similar cases but, knowing her personally, they didn’t want to comment on the record.

Ken Byers, a lawyer in St. Catharines, Ont., says that without knowing the details of Rae’s case, the facts always determine the sentence. “The more severe the facts, the more severe the penalty,” he said.

Crawley, meanwhile, defended the outcome of the case in his e-mail. “The decisions in this case were made by the independent prosecutor. A joint position on sentencing was presented to the judge. As in all cases, it is for the judge to accept or reject the submission.”

Crawley noted it’s common for an independent prosecutor to handle cases like Rae’s. “This is done to ensure independence and avoid any real or perceived conflict.”

Rae had no previous criminal record. She had been charged with careless driving, a Highway Traffic Act offence, about a month earlier.

  • Steve
    I knew Nancy when she handled the adoption of two children for me back some 28 years ago. Nancy is a fine lady who has experienced some difficulty in life which all of us experience at one time or another. Nancy made some very bad choices but if you knew her you would know it is totally out of character for her as she "really does care" about people. I personally wish her all the best. I too am sober and have been for 29 years and indirectly Nancy is also a part of that by seeing me thru with adopting two beautiful children now 28 and 30 yrs of age.
  • Bill
    FYI....when I was working with the Northumberland OPP as a police officer I dealt frequently with Ms Rae...she is a very fine Asst Crown. Dealing with the Vickers trial was not easy yet she got a conviction. As to the DUI/Over 80....Nancy knows better...She got the penalty almost every 1st offender receives, why should she also loose her job....have some compassion
  • # anon
    Are you kidding me ? Why should she be allowed to keep her job as a convicted criminal, when those who are in the same position cant keep theirs, and can not find any suitable employment due to the criminal conviction . Ive seen people loose their house ,their employment ,their families . They did not blow 190 they did not have their kid in the car they did not abuse the officer doing his/her job and they did not lie or almost run people off the road. Nancy gets paid medical leave at 180,000.00 per year she gets a year to pay her fine and she keeps her job trying people of a crime she has been convicted of with little or no real punishment . Once again are you kidding me ?
  • anon
    She has kept her job and has been on paid medical leave scince the day after her arrest !
  • a
    Her entire family was from Nova Scotia originally so i dont see how anything is impartial
  • Annon
    I have contacted the Ministry of the Attorney General but have recieved no reply as to weather Nancy Rae is still employed as an Assistant Crown Prosecutor .Would anyone know how I would find this information ?
  • legaljunior

    karly tanner
    Its absolutely none of your business. Its private information. Stop being nosey.
  • anonymous
    Does anyone know if she has kept her position or has she been terminated ?
  • YES!!!!!!

    Do you know the thrill of breaking law? She is not a criminal. Just unwinding like myself. After doing boring court job and walking on red carpet in law socety with high heels who won't need a thrill at the end of the day.....Relax, Give her a break!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Annon #2
    Are you just having some fun ? If you are ..Well done !! If not ....Nancy rae IS a criminal and the court has deemed it so ! As for keeping her job , if she is allowed to, then really what punishment has she recieved as her salary will be able to cover any kind of transportation to and from work and any other travel she would need to do it is not like she is a service plumber or a taxi drver who would loose their job and have no way of supportting themselves or even paying for the interlock device or the Back on track course ,let alone the fine and would most likely loose their house and family and turn to alcohol or some other criminal activity! Why should those 1st time offenders be subjected to that and not her ? As for giving her a break ......WHY ?
  • No !

    How can we allow an individual who placed the very people she was charged to protect in harms way by driving at twice the legal limit, continue her duties ? Should a person with a criminal record be allowed to prosecute the people she endangered ? If she is allowed to return to prosocute, then has she really recieved any punishment for endangering all of our lives, her childs life, and her own life ? I find it hard to believe that a person who was given the privalage of protecting us should think they deserve to keep this privilage after being convicted of a crime that proves her willingness to endanger us all !
  • Anon2
    The privilege of protecting us? You mean, she has done us the SERVICE of protecting us. Against dangerous and hardened criminals. Something for which us ordinary citizens owe her thanks. Does that mean she gets a get out of jail free card? No. Does that mean she deserves a little slack for her FIRST time breaking the law? Absolutely. Just like every other law abiding Canadian who slips up for the first time after facing intense life pressures.
  • millie
    [really? she was just charged with dangerous driving or a similar charge the week before, and she is sorry, she probably caught a break for not being found out, or charged with drinking and driving that time, how many chance does this person need, do you think the justice system would be so kind to the average jo who had similar charges,or pending NO
  • Absolutely Not!

    It is absurd that she should be allowed to keep her position as a Crown Attorney in a situation such as this. Rae had a duty to the profession and more importantly to her child, regardless of how stressed out she was, not to engage in reckless behaviour that put others' lives at risk. Personal stress is no excuse! We all go through stressful times! Stressful times should not be considered a "get out of jail free card" for criminal or quasi criminal conduct.

    As a Crown, her duties and obligations to the public were even greater than those of the average person. Allowing her to keep her position as a Crown calls the administration of justice into disrepute!
  • Diana
    Irregardless, if the Attorney General has a lapse of common sense and allows her to keep her job. My question is, how does she intend to continue working as a lawyer? When she can no longer meet the good conduct requirement required by the LSUC to practice law.
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