Courts

Halifax man sentenced for 2016 killing of friend

Benjamin Gillis stabbed Blaine Clothier in the abdomen during an argument

Defence lawyer Peter Planetta speaks to media after the sentencing.   Ross Andersen

A Halifax man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for killing a friend during an argument in 2016.

Benjamin Joshua Gillis, 27, was sentenced Wednesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax as the family of Blaine Clothier looked on.

“I recognize my faults,” Gillis told the court, adding that he wants to change.

Gillis and Clothier got into an argument at an apartment on Autumn Drive in Halifax on March 2, 2016. It ended when Gillis stabbed Clothier in the lower abdomen with a kitchen knife, killing him, before leaving the scene. He was arrested the same day.

Gillis was charged with second-degree murder, but earlier this month he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

During the sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Peter Planetta argued that since Gillis is a “relatively youthful offender,” there should be attempts to rehabilitate him. He told the court that Gillis has expressed remorse and “accepted responsibility” for his actions by pleading guilty.

Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said that Clothier, 27, was unarmed, and the attack was a “senseless, unprovoked act of violence that ended a young man’s life.”

Driscoll noted Gillis’ past criminal record, which includes four violent crimes, as “lengthy” and “ongoing.”

‘Big heart’

The sentencing hearing also included victim impact statements from the victim’s mother, Cheri Clothier; his aunt, Tracey Clothier; and his brother, Dillon Fitzgerald.

“My brother had a big heart,” Fitzgerald told the court. “My niece now has to grow up without her father.”

Cheri Clothier said that Gillis’ actions were “brutal” and “senseless.” She held up a picture of her son and his daughter for the court to look at after she finished her statement.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Peter Rosinski said he considered Gillis’ “substantial and sustained criminal record,” but also that rehabilitation for Gillis should not be forgotten.

Gillis has been in custody since March 2016 and the time he has already served in prison will count towards his nine-year sentence. He has 2,237 days total remaining before his sentence is completed.

Gillis was also ordered to attend mandatory substance abuse and mental health counselling.

Outside the courtroom, Planetta said he was satisfied with the sentence.

“We requested a sentence of seven years and the Crown requested a sentence of 13 years, so not too much to be disappointed in there,” he told reporters.