- Mark Bonokoski - Spinning a hero's death - Mark Bonokoski - Spinning a hero's death

July 29, 2005

Spinning a hero's death


Back in late April, Tory MPP Bob Runciman rose in the legislature at Queen's Park to tear a strip off the sentence handed down to hero-killer Henry Danninger by Ontario Justice Roydon Kealey -- imploring Attorney General Michael Bryant to "right the wrong" by having the Crown submit objections to thwart Danninger's shot at parole.

"Canada's justice system continues to fail Canadians," said Runciman, a former solicitor general. "Mind-boggling decisions by judges that seem to completely lack common sense and blithely ignore victims occur all too frequently, feeding the disillusionment of Canadians."

An ugly scenario

And then he cut to the chase, citing Danninger's two-for-one credit for time not only spent in custody, but while under house arrest awaiting the second-degree murder trial which ultimately saw him copping a guilty plea to manslaughter in return for a five-year sentence.

It was an ugly scenario -- both at the Ottawa bar where Danninger put a knife through the heart of 23-year-old University of Ottawa engineering student Andy Moffitt, and later while under house arrest, when he poured urine and feces over a neighbour's car on 24 occasions.

Andy Moffitt was an innocent bystander whose decision to act as peacemaker during a confrontation between Danninger and an ex-roommate he believed had stolen his cache of drugs ended with his death and a Governor General's Award for Bravery a few years later.

It took time for Runciman's comments to reach the desk of Danninger's Kingston lawyer, Susan Mulligan, but, once they did, she tore off an e-mail to Runciman in early July, castigating him for his "knee-jerk reactionary comments."

"Mr. Danninger is, of course, coming up for parole," Mulligan wrote, "and your comments may very well interfere with, (as well as) bias what is meant to be an independent process."

She also accused him of being "ill-informed."

As was written here Wednesday, Danninger did have his parole hearing this week, and his application for day parole was denied -- the National Parole Board panel citing how the 31-year-old drug dealer had yet to explain both his actions at the bar where Moffitt was left bleeding to death on the floor, and his "bizarre" and unprovoked behaviour of dumping human waste on a neighbour's property -- actions the prosecutor at the time called a "terror campaign."

Runciman's reply to Mulligan was certainly brief.

"Hi Susan," he wrote. "I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your message. I will pass it along to the person responsible for the research."

And that person, as it turns out, is me -- via a column published here in April which the Brockville-area MPP obviously used as basis for his statement to the legislature.

Susan Mulligan, however, was not without her own spin.

She told Runciman, for example, that her client, Henry Danninger, was also a university student.

He was not. What he was, instead, was a university dropout who, saddled with debt, had pulled out three credits shy of his degree about a year before he stabbed engineering computer whiz Andy Moffitt who, coincidentally, also called Brockville his home town.

Danninger's only contact with the university, in fact, was as a venue for selling drugs.

Mulligan also opined that Andy Moffitt -- celebrating the end of exams and the imminent arrival of Christmas -- may have been the agent of his own death.

"It was Mr. Moffitt whose blood-alcohol was over the legal limit, and Mr. Danninger who had not been drinking," she told Runciman.

"It is matter of interpretation, I suppose, as to whether Mr. Moffitt was third man in on an unfair fight.

"The Crown attorney, in accepting a plea to manslaughter, accepted that Mr. Danninger had no desire or intention to kill Mr. Moffitt, or anyone else that evening."

That's Susan Mulligan's take -- that her client's sobriety somehow plays in his favour. That, with a clear mind, he took what he himself called a "bad-assed knife" to confront his former roomie but, despite being armed, he had no intention of killing anyone.

She expects Runciman to believe this?

A mind-boggling spin

And she also expects him to believe that Andy Moffitt, awarded the Governor General's Award for Bravery, was perhaps the "third man in on an unfair fight" and therefore author of his own fate?

This is truly mind-boggling.

Bob Runciman was correct when he said in the legislature that the sentence handed down on Henry Danninger was "mind-boggling."

But Susan Mulligan's spin puts the total boggle on an already boggled mind.

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