A former Canadian soldier who killed a young aboriginal gay man in Brandon, Manitoba, has been sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter. But to many friends and family members of victim Duane Lacquette, it felt like Lacquette was put on trial and unfairly judged a rapist.
In court June 7, killer Jason Ouimet expressed remorse for choking the 21-year-old to death on the night of Jan 16, 2010, when the two were alone together following a party. “I didn’t mean for anyone to lose their life on that night,” Ouimet told a courtroom filled with Lacquette’s friends and family members.
Jordan Lane Epp, a former boyfriend of Lacquette’s, doesn’t buy Ouimet’s apology. “You’re not sorry, don’t tell us you’re sorry,” Epp said in his victim impact statement, which was quoted along with Ouimet’s words in the Brandon Sun. “You’re just putting on a show because it’s your sentencing day.”
Crown prosecutor Jim Ross explained to the court that he struck a plea deal with Ouimet’s lawyers because Ouimet’s explanation of the killing was consistent with evidence in the case. Ouimet claims that he passed out at Lacquette’s house following a party and when he woke up, Lacquette was lying naked on top of him, trying to give him oral sex.
Enraged, the 5-foot-9, 200-pound boxing champ punched the 5-foot-7, 165-pound Lacquette in the neck and then put him in a UFC-style chokehold. When Lacquette died from strangulation, Ouimet fled the scene and initially lied to police about his involvement. He was later charged with second-degree murder but avoided a trial earlier this spring by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
In his ruling, Justice John Menzies accepted the lawyers’ joint submission that Ouimet was being sexually assaulted by Lacquette and reacted in anger.
Ouimet’s sentence of five years is on the lower end of what perpetrators of manslaughter usually get. If he serves his jail time with good behaviour, he’ll likely be released into a halfway house after two and a half years.
Carlie Smart, a close friend of Lacquette’s, told Xtra that she’s “very disappointed” with Ouimet’s sentence. But she’s perhaps more disappointed that Lacquette was characterized in court as a rapist.
“The victim [in this case] was switched around,” she says, “and the spotlight was put on Duane. His reputation and status were very important to him, and I wonder what he would be thinking right now.”
Smart, who knew Lacquette for two years before his death, says she doesn’t believe Ouimet’s story. “I never saw Duane become violent or start a fight with anyone,” she says. Though Lacquette used to brag about picking up straight guys, Smart says he wouldn’t have put himself in the position Ouimet claims he did.
Since the sentencing, Lacquette’s friends and family members have posted dozens of messages to his Facebook tribute page to express their support for Lacquette and denounce Ouimet’s five-year deal.
Ouimet, until recently a gunner at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, was “released” from the Armed Forces on May 25 following a review, a spokesperson for the base told the Brandon Sun on June 7.