CFB SHILO — A soldier who shot one fellow soldier in the leg and fired another shot that narrowly missed another faces the prospect of six years in prison.
Master Cpl. Clarence Joseph Stillman was convicted of aggravated assault and firearm offences on Wednesday during his court martial at CFB Shilo.
Court heard Stillman struggled with mental illness and alcohol abuse around the time of the shooting. He briefly took the stand to apologize to the victims and described that period of his life as “horrible.”
“To say that my reality was crumbling around me is to put it mildly,” Stillman said.
He’s to be sentenced today, and his lawyer and the prosecutor have jointly recommended that he be sentenced to six years in prison and dismissed from the military.
As his court martial began on Tuesday, Stillman admitted to shooting Bombardier Shannon Trimm in the leg and firing another shot that narrowly missed Bombardier Garret Cote in the early morning of July 29, 2012.
Despite supplying the admissions that led to his own conviction, Stillman pleaded not guilty to the charges to ensure he has the right to appeal on the basis of a constitutional argument.
At the time of the shooting, Trimm and Cote shared a housing unit at CFB Shilo and Stillman was invited to the home to continue to party after an evening of drinking at the junior ranks’ club on base.
But Trimm badly beat Stillman, who’d refused to leave the home following an argument.
Stillman went to his own quarters, returned with a .45-calibre handgun and fired the two shots.
Following his client’s admissions at court martial, Maj. Phillipe-Luc Boutin made a constitutional challenge to the National Defence Act.
Boutin asked that the charges be dismissed, arguing that Section 130 (1) a of the NDA — which allows Criminal Code charges to be laid and prosecuted under the military justice system — is too broad relative to the objectives of the act, and amounts to a breach under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Wednesday, however, military judge Lt.-Col. J.G. Perron disagreed. He ruled the NDA section wasn’t a violation of the charter and rejected Boutin’s application to have the charges dismissed.
Perron then convicted Stillman of aggravated assault and of discharging a firearm with intent to wound, maim, disfigure or endanger Trimm’s life. The gunman was also convicted of reckless discharge of a firearm, using a firearm in the commission of an offence and unauthorized possession of a loaded restricted handgun.
Prosecutor Lt.-Col. Steven Richards and Boutin jointly recommended a sentence of six years in prison and Stillman’s dismissal from the military.
The recommended prison term is essentially the legislated minimum sentence.
Stillman, 41, has spent a total of 16 years in the Canadian Forces and he’s a decorated soldier who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
He has no prior criminal record and no prior mark against his military service record.
Court heard that Stillman was struggling with mental illness, personal problems and alcohol abuse at the time of the shooting.
Boutin said the “vicious” beating that Stillman took from Trimm was the trigger for the shooting.
A psychologist testified that Stillman’s mental health struggles included “residual” signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which may be linked to his previous service in Bosnia but also may be connected to abuse he suffered as a child.
Perron noted there was nothing in the psychologist’s report that linked PTSD to Stillman’s military service.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 24, 2013