“I still don’t even believe she’s gone…but nothing will ever bring her back.”
Joni Mahy was reflecting moments after the sentence was passed down Monday morning on the reckless driver who caused the death of her sister, Christy, in July 2014 at a busy Richmond intersection.
Albanian native Erjon Kashari was sentenced at Richmond Provincial Court to time already served, after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing Mahy’s death at Russ Baker Way and the Dinsmore Bridge. He was also banned from driving in Canada for five years.
Judge Patrick Chen said credit has to be given to Kashari – a refugee claimant with a Canadian work permit, who had a long criminal history from the UK at the time of the accident – for his time spent in an Albanian jail awaiting extradition and in a Canadian prison, awaiting today’s sentencing.
Chen sentenced Kashari to a total of 25 and three quarter months after he drove dangerously and lost control of his SUV as it raced towards the intersection where Christy was standing on the sidewalk, waiting for the pedestrian crossing light.
Kashari’s vehicle swerved into 34-year-old Mahy, causing horrific injuries.
The court heard last week that, a month after the tragic accident, Kashari withdrew his refugee claim with the CBSA, triggering a deportation order.
Three months later, in November 2014, the CBSA – which didn’t get a reply from the RCMP after it asked if there was any reason he shouldn’t be allowed to leave Canada – paid for a flight back to Albania for Kashari.
Mahy’s family fought for years to keep the case in the public eye and maintain pressure on the authorities to bring Kashari to justice.
Charges were eventually laid in 2018 and he was extradited back to Canada in the summer of 2020.
“I’m glad he was brought back to face the charge though. But I do feel if my dad hadn’t had those (memorial) rides every year and kept it in the spotlight (with the Richmond News), then this day would never have come,” said Joni, moments after family and friends visited the site where Christy died.
“I feel it was continually brushed under the rug all these years. It’s upsetting for sure.
“I’ve kind come to the realization that she’s gone, but I still keep thinking she will show up one day.”
Joni had hoped for a lengthier sentence for Kashari, but added that she was “happy” with the way the judge handled the sentencing.
“He was very thorough and it was clear he had a heart. However, I feel quite numb about it all. It has consumed me for so long now,” she said.
Joni, however, was bothered about the judge’s claim that Kashari was not to blame for pulling his refugee claim and leaving Canada.
“The fact that the judge claimed Kashari didn’t know there would be charges? Anyone that did what he did would have the common sense to know there would be consequences,” she said.
“I was surprised to hear Kashari getting credit for that.”
The News understands from Kashari’s lawyer, Jordan Allingham, that he will be deported back to Albania at the earliest opportunity.
However, for Christy’s family and the many friends that turned up for multiple court appearances since Kashari was extradited to Canada last year, several big questions still remain unanswered.
Why was convicted criminal Kashari allowed to enter Canada and why he was allowed to leave by the RCMP and the CBSA a few months after causing Christy’s death?
“We’ve had to wait all this time and we still don’t have those answers,” added Joni.
“I would love to hear from them, with some kind of explanation and apology. I’m trying not to be angry and blame anyone but there are still a lot of things that need to be answered.
“How was he able to come to another Commonwealth country with that criminal past?”
Before passing sentence, Judge Chen spoke of the “many difficulties” faced by Kashari while growing up in poverty in Albania “during its period of Communist dictatorship.”
According to Chen, when Kashari was 13, his father was killed in a hit and run and his mother is paralysed. His only other sibling, a sister, has cancer.
When he was 14, he walked for five days to Greece to seek refuge, but was forced, age 18, to leave there and head to England.
It was there that he apparently struggled with substance abuse and committed a number of offences between 2002 and 2007, including two assaults, burglary, theft and holding his wife hostage and beating her up.
The latter of which saw him jailed in the UK for a year before being deported in 2009.
The court heard how Kashari somehow made his way into Montreal in August 2010, where he made a refugee claim and was in Canada “legally” before receiving a work permit in early 2014.
According to the judge, Kashari was “making a great effort to live his life in Canada crime-free, until this accident.”
Prior to driving dangerously and causing Christy’s death, Kashari netted four, minor driving-related offences.
After pulling his refugee claim a month after Christy’s death in 2014 – and subsequently being deported – Kashari made his way to Norway, where he committed further offences, including fraud and receiving proceeds of crime in 2015 and domestic violence in March 2016.
Judge Chen said he took into account Kashari’s childhood and past troubles, as well as court precedents for similar cases and the fact that Kashari has expressed remorse immediately after the tragic accident and at the sentencing hearing.
In terms of giving Kashari credit for his time spent in custody in Albania, awaiting extradition, Chen stated that Kashari “did not ask to be kept in custody in Albania, so should be credited.”
Kashari’s lawyer, Allingham, told the News after the sentencing that his client had every right to leave Canada as he had “not been charged with any offences.
“He went through all of the legal channels in withdrawing his refugee claim at the CBSA office in Vancouver on August 18, 2014.
“A CBSA officer's inquiry to the Richmond RCMP as to whether any charges would be forthcoming were left unanswered. There were in fact no charges sworn until nearly four years later.”
Allingham added that his client was “appreciative of the result today and grateful the Judge agreed with our position.
“However, he remains incredibly remorseful for causing the death of Ms. Mahy, and is hopeful by his acceptance of responsibility and sentencing he has provided a measure of closure to her family and friends.”
The News has reached out Monday to the RCMP and the CBSA for comment as to why Kashari was allowed to enter Canada with a serious criminal record and why he was allowed to leave the country while the investigation was ongoing.