Halifax drunk driver deemed high-risk offender set free after pleading guilty to latest charges

Haley Ryan
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Micheal Cooper makes an appearance at Halifax Provincial Court Jan. 28.

A man deemed a high-risk offender after killing two people while driving drunk told a Halifax judge March 6 his brain damage had led him to walk into a liquor store in January.

Michael Gerard Cooper, 55, pleaded guilty to two counts of breach of conditions in Halifax provincial court Thursday and was released after being sentenced to time served, as he had already spent over a month in custody.

Cooper was arrested Jan. 28 for entering the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlet besides Sobeys on Mumford Road and was remanded to the East Coast Forensic Hospital for a fitness assessment.

The report stated Cooper was criminally responsible but has significant brain damage as a result of a traumatic injury during the collision where he killed two people, making it difficult for him to live independently.

“Half the time I don’t even think about where I’m going or what I’m doing,” Cooper said in court when asked if he wanted to speak.

“Brain damage, that’s all it is.”

Damage to the frontal lobe is often accompanied by socially inappropriate behaviour and comments, and has changed Cooper’s personality drastically, the assessment said.

Crown attorney Susan MacKay told the court she had spoken with Cooper’s brother who has set up a living situation in Dartmouth, where Cooper’s landlady will supervise him during the day and give him work around the building since he was a carpenter.

“We don’t have any reason to think that he’s actively going out there, trying to get behind the wheel of a car and drive when he’s drunk,” MacKay said outside court.

MacKay said she is hopeful Cooper will get more assistance when he is assessed by Community Services.

Cooper was released from a federal penitentiary in New Brunswick on Jan.22 after serving a seven-year sentence for killing Angela Smits, 19, and her boyfriend Michael MacLean, 20, in May 2004 in the collision in Cape Breton.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, Sobeys, East Coast Forensic Hospital Community Services

Geographic location: Halifax, Mumford Road, Dartmouth New Brunswick Cape Breton

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