Not "Unduly" Harsh, Inquest Told
SUDBURY - Kimberly Rogers' sentence for welfare fraud was not considered unduly harsh, an assistant Crown attorney testified Wednesday at the coroner's inquest into her death.
'It was not an easy sentence for her to live through," said Philip Zylberber. "There was hardship. But unduly (harsh)? I don't think it was, knowing everything at the time the sentence was imposed. It was consistent with normal sentencing."
Rogers, 40, died in her apartment during a heat wave in august 2001 while serving a six-month conditional sentence for welfare fraud. She died of an overdose of anti-depressants.
The terms of her sentence included being allowed to leave the apartment three hours per week to shop and to attend medical appointments and religious services.
The inquest was also told that the terms of her conditional sentence could be changed if they were found to be problematic.
When asked if Rogers' conditional sentence supervisor could permit her to leave the house to look for work, Zylberberg said it could be possible.
Under cross-examination, Zylberberg was asked if a Crown attorney would want to know if an accused person would require community services to sustain her doing house arrest.
"Personal consequences are relevant but we are not an investigative agency," he said. "An accused person doesn't have to answer our questions."
If the defense informs the Crown of those circumstances, Zylberberg said, the case would be rescreened and those factors taken into consideration.
He added that the screening process in ongoing and never stops until the case is closed.
Crown positions outlined in a screening document are not binding on other Crown attorneys who may be involved in the case nor are judges bound by the Crown's position.
Sudbury assistant Crown attorney Alex Kurke became involved in Rogers' case the day before her guilty plea was issued in April 2001.
On the day of her court appearance the following day, Kurke said he learned Rogers was on social assistance and that deductions for the overpayment were being made. He was also informed by her defense counsel Andrew Buttazzoni, that she was pregnant.
A joint submission was made for sentencing and Rogers received the six-month conditional sentence with house arrest to be followed by 18 months or probation.
The inquest was told that the judge said he was concerned about the amount of money taken during her four years of "deception and dishonesty" and that welfare is there for those who need it, not want it.
The judge did not impose a term of community service because of the expected birth of her child.
In order to put "some teeth" to the conditional sentence, Kurke said he asked that the time she was to be allowed out of the house to shop be done in a certain time period.
"This was a conditional sentence and not a probation," Kurke said.
There was also a provision for "any other purposes as may be permitted by her supervisor."
Kurke said this provision provided flexibility.
The inquest continues today at the Sudbury Court House.