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Linda O’Leary’s defence points to boat light evidence in closing arguments at trial

Written by on July 22, 2021

A lawyer for Linda O’Leary argues that evidence showing another vessel’s lights were off at the time his client crashed into it is too strong to find her guilty in the fatal boat collision. 

Closing arguments began this morning at the trial of O’Leary, who is charged in an August 2019 boat crash north of Toronto that killed two people. 

The wife of celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary has pleaded not guilty to one charge of careless operation of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act.

Her lawyer Brian Greenspan told court today that video and witness evidence that the other boat’s lights were off at the time of the crash outweighs “speculation” about possible wrongdoing by O’Leary.

He argued that it’s not possible to know the speed Linda O’Leary was driving, whether she was impaired by alcohol at the time or whether she was operating the boat in a careless manner.

Greenspan argued she should be cleared of responsibility because the Crown couldn’t prove any of those factors played a role in her actions. 

“There can be no rational, reasonable evidential foundation for a suggestion that the Nautique was anything other than invisible to Mrs. O’Leary on that dark, moonless night,” Greenspan told court.

Kevin O’Leary testified in his wife’s defence Wednesday, saying he saw “zero light” coming from the other vessel involved in the late-night crash on Lake Joseph until after the collision. 

The former “Dragon’s Den” star was a passenger on the family’s pilot boat at the time of crash, along with another friend who was injured. 

Gary Poltash, 64, of Florida, and Suzana Brito, 48, from Uxbridge, Ont., died from their injuries after the crash and three others were also hurt.

The question of whether the other boat had its lights on has been a point of contention in the case. 

Witnesses on the other boat, including the owner who was charged in the crash with failing to exhibit a navigation light, testified that they remembered some lights being on.

But Greenspan said those witnesses’ testimony should be treated with caution. 

He argued the judge should reject their evidence because it doesn’t line up with video that showed lights on the 16-foot Nautique vessel were off when the crash happened, and with testimony from witnesses at the O’Leary cottage who said they saw the other boat’s lights turn on only after the crash. 

Kevin O’Leary also testified that he did not recall if his wife had consumed alcohol in the hours before the crash. 

Court earlier heard testimony from a police officer who said Linda O’Leary registered an “alert range” level of blood alcohol on a breath test taken shortly after the crash. The officer said Linda O’Leary told her she had only had one drink after the crash.

Greenspan argued Thursday that the Crown does not have evidence to prove the meaning of that alert test result or whether it impacted his client’s boating.

He also pointed to video evidence of her leaving a dinner party at another cottage just before the late night crash in which she appeared to be functioning normally. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press