Calgary Major may get jail time despite beating manslaughter charge

Major Darryl Watts and his lawyer Balfour Der walk through Mewata Armoury to Watts' court martial proceedings in Calgary, Nov. 14, 2012

Credits: Lyle Aspinall/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency


CALGARY -- Army reservist Maj. Darryl Watts still faces a possible jail term, despite a military jury clearing him Tuesday of the most serious charge he faces.

Following the verdict, defence lawyer Balfour Der said he expects court martial prosecutors will seek prison for his client.

"I'm fairly certain the prosecution will seek jail and seek his dismissal (from the military)," Der said, after a five-member panel of senior officers found Watts guilty of unlawfully causing bodily harm. "We're going to fight like hell against that," Der said.

Watts was acquitted of manslaughter in the Feb. 12, 2010 death of Cpl. Joshua Baker in a training exercise accident in the desert of Afghanistan, near Kandahar city.

Baker was killed and four other soldiers seriously wounded when the C19 mine they were test-firing shot ball bearings in their direction.

Watts was also acquitted of two counts of breaching his duty in the handling of explosives which resulted in a death and injuries.

Because those amounted to an unlawful act, he was also found guilty of unlawfully causing the wounded troops bodily harm.

The criminal charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Der suggested the convictions will cause a chill effect on potential military recruits.

"I think anyone who aspires to have a career in the Canadian Forces would probably give it a second thought now," Der said.

But lead prosecutor Maj. Anthony Tamburro dismissed that suggestion.

"In my opinion if commanders weren't responsible for the way range's were done, that would cause people not to join the forces," he said.

During the trial, Tamburro argued Watts was criminally negligent in his handling of the training drill by delegating the C19 portion to his second-in-command without ensuring safety procedures were followed.

The troops, including Watts himself, weren't embedded in light armoured vehicles on site when the mines were detonated, including the one which killed Baker.

"It was his duty to order a stop to the range until his personnel were either placed under cover, or withdrawn from the danger zone," Tamburro said.

Sentencing submission are set for January.

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