NEWS
08/31/2011 04:00 EDT | Updated 10/30/2011 05:12 EDT

Jack Tobin Sentencing: Judge Hands Down 3 Year Jail Sentence, 7 Year Driving Ban

OTTAWA - Jack Tobin, described as a "good son" who made a serious mistake, was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for a drunken escapade that killed his best friend.

The 24-year-old son of former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin was sentenced to three years and handed an additional seven-year ban on driving once his sentence expires for his role in the death of his buddy Alex Zolpis last Christmas Eve.

Tobin pleaded guilty in May to impaired driving causing death.

Brian Tobin said Jack had been "a good son and a good brother."

"He made a serious mistake," the former premier and federal cabinet minister said. "He's going to pay the price of that mistake."

He said his son still has potential.

"The best way he can honour his friend Alex is to have a good life and make a contribution to his community. We know that he will."

Zolpis died pinned under a pickup truck after some drunken hijinks on the roof of a downtown parking lot.

Judge Lise Maisonneuve said she took into account Tobin's extreme remorse and his decision to plead guilty and forgo a trial in reaching her decision. But she also considered Tobin's previous record with alcohol and cars.

Tobin's lawyer had suggested a sentence of 18 to 30 months, while the prosecution asked for five years.

Prosecutor Mark Moors said there was evidence of previous reckless acts behind the wheel and alcohol consumption by Tobin.

Written testimony included an account of Tobin driving in circles, known as doughnuts, in a Newfoundland parking lot with a friend clinging to the outside of the SUV and being tossed to the ground, unharmed.

He also registered a blood-alcohol level exactly on the permissible .08 level after being pulled over by police for spinning his car tires in August 2009 in a village south of Ottawa.

After the sentencing, Norm Boxall, Tobin's lawyer, called it a sad day.

"This is a really exceptional young man that wanted to do the right thing for everyone in the circumstances, and pled guilty, and the judge's comments about his promise, I think are there," Boxall said.

"That having been said, it's a very sad day for all concerned. It's a sad day to see a young man go to jail and it's a sad day to reflect on the loss for Alex's family."

Emma Roberts, Zolpis's girlfriend, said she will never be satisfied.

"Jack Tobin will most likely serve one-third of his sentence," she said.

Meanwhile, she and the Zolpis family have lost a loved one.

"We're left to pick up the pieces," she said.

At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, Tobin offered a tearful apology for his actions.

"I truly wish I had been the only victim of my actions that night and not Alex,'' the 24-year-old said.

He addressed Zolpis's tearful parents, sister and girlfriend by name, saying "how truly sorry and utterly ashamed I am for the unforgivable mistakes I made.''

He ended his short statement with a sad caution: "If there's any good to come from this very, very dark cloud, I hope that it will be this message to others: the consequences of drinking and driving are deadly, they are real, they are enduring — a nightmare from which you never wake up."