HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top court has rejected the appeal of the life sentence given to an American woman who plotted a Valentine’s Day shooting spree at a Halifax mall in 2015.
In a written decision released Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal says “there is nothing” to justify Lindsay Souvannarath’s appeal of her sentence of life with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, Justice Ann Derrick said the sentencing judge, Justice Peter Rosinski, was entitled to determine the gravity of the conspiracy around the plot and was required to decide what sentence would protect the public.
“That made it necessary for him to assess the appellant’s ongoing dangerousness,” said Derrick. “He did so.”
Derrick said the judge was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that had the plan not been interrupted, Souvannarath and co-conspirator James Gamble would have carried it out.
“After considering and weighing a broad range of relevant factors, he (Rosinski) decided the maximum sentence of life imprisonment should be imposed,” she wrote. “There is nothing to justify appellate intervention.”
Souvannarath pleaded guilty in April 2017 about six months after Randall Shepherd — a Halifax man described in court as the “cheerleader” of the foiled plot — was sentenced to a decade in jail. The 19-year-old Gamble was found dead in his Halifax-area home a day before the planned attack.
Her lawyer, Peter Planetta, had argued the life sentence would have been more appropriate for a terrorism case. Planetta also argued during a hearing last month that Souvannarath’s sentence should be similar to that given to Shepherd.
Crown lawyer Tim O’Leary told the court the sentence was fitting, though it was at the top end of what’s recommended for the offence.
“The appellant and Randall Shepherd simply cannot be described as similar offenders who committed similar offences in similar circumstances,” Derrick wrote in the decision. “The disparity in their sentences was justifiable.”
Chris Hansen, director of communications for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, said the Crown considers the decision well-reasoned and is satisfied with the outcome.
The thwarted plot
The origin of the conspiracy was traced to December 2014, when Souvannarath and Gamble began an online relationship.
Souvannarath, who is from the Chicago area, flew to Halifax where she intended to throw Molotov cocktails into a food court and then open fire, before ending the massacre by killing herself.
The plot was thwarted when police received an anonymous tip.
Gamble killed himself as police tried to arrest him, while Shepherd and Souvannarath were arrested at the Halifax airport on Feb. 13, 2015.