Home builder DeSan­tis guilty of driv­ing high

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JOANNA FRKETICH jfr­ketich@thes­pec.com 905-526-3349 | @Jfr­ketich

Prom­i­nent home builder Peter DeSan­tis spent his 78th birth­day plead­ing guilty to driv­ing while high on co­caine.

The founder of Homes by DeSan­tis lost his driver’s li­cence for a year and was sen­tenced Fri­day to a $1,500 fine plus a vic­tim sur­charge of $450 by On­tario Court Jus­tice Mar­joh Agro for us­ing a pop can to con­sume crack while driv­ing.

But his lawyer Jef­frey Man­ishen said, “the shame and em­bar­rass­ment” of the pub­lic court case “af­ter years of such a good rep­u­ta­tion is more of a sanc­tion.”

DeSan­tis does not have a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and Man­ishen told the court the charges “would come as a shock to peo­ple” be­cause of the “high level of re­gard” his client has in Hamil­ton.

Man­ishen went on to say DeSan­tis plans to “re­turn to be­ing a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the com­mu­nity.”

How­ever, he is leav­ing the com­pany he started when he built his first house in 1959. Man­ishen told the court his client’s re­lapse 10 months ago af­ter pre­vi­ously re­cov­er­ing from drug ad­dic­tion has prompted “life­style changes” in­clud­ing giv­ing up the stress of the fam­ily busi­ness.

“He’s trans­fer­ring the en­tire re­spon­si­bil­ity of the busi­ness to his sons,” said Man­ishen. “He’s no longer in­volved in the com­pany.”

DeSan­tis has three adult chil­dren. His son, Gabriel DeSan­tis, is cur­rently pres­i­dent of the award­win­ning Stoney Creek busi­ness.

At the same time DeSan­tis pleaded guilty to im­paired driv­ing, a charge re­lated to pos­ses­sion of co­caine was dropped partly be­cause DeSan­tis has a home in Florida as well as Stoney Creek and a drug con­vic­tion would make it dif­fi­cult for him to cross the bor­der into the United States.

“It’s a very sig­nif­i­cant step for the Crown to take,” said Man­ishen while ex­press­ing his ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the court.

DeSan­tis said, “No” when asked by Agro if he had any­thing to say prior to his sen­tenc­ing. He also de­clined to com­ment to The Spec­ta­tor.

His wife, Mary DeSan­tis, was in court Fri­day to sup­port him.

It is not the first time his drug ad­dic­tion has be­come pub­lic. His son, Peter DeSan­tis Jr., pleaded guilty to dan­ger­ous driv­ing in June 2012 and was fined $1,000 in a car-ram­ming in­ci­dent that de­fence coun­sel Dean Pa­que­tte said at the time was in­tended to pre­vent his fa­ther from buy­ing drugs.

Pa­que­tte told court in 2012 that the fam­ily pa­tri­arch’s 20-year ad­dic­tion had caused enor­mous strife in the fam­ily and wors­ened in the five years be­fore the Sept. 9, 2011, in­ci­dent.

DeSan­tis went to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in the United States, said Man­ishen in court Fri­day. He didn’t say when the treat­ment was sought but de­clared “it seemed to be work­ing well.”

It was af­ter DeSan­tis en­coun­tered an ac­quain­tance who gave him drugs that he re­lapsed on Au­gust 24, 2016.

At around 11 p.m. that night, a cit­i­zen called po­lice about a car be­ing driven er­rat­i­cally in Stoney Creek. The cit­i­zen was fol­low­ing the car and waved to point it out to Hamil­ton Po­lice when they ar­rived.

DeSan­tis was pulled over at about 11:23 p.m. on Green Moun­tain Road East near 8th Road East.

“The of­fi­cers no­ticed he had trou­ble leav­ing the ve­hi­cle,” Crown at­tor­ney Steve O’Brien told the court. “He had to use the door frame to pull him­self up.”

O’Brien de­scribed DeSan­tis as “un­steady” and his speech was “in­co­her­ent and con­fused.”

The of­fi­cers could not de­tect al­co­hol and DeSan­tis told them he had di­a­betes so they called an am­bu­lance.

Af­ter ex­am­in­ing him, paramedics told po­lice that DeSan­tis was not suf­fer­ing from a med­i­cal is­sue. They pointed the of­fi­cers to a “pop can” in the car that “had holes” and was “still hot to the touch,” said O’Brien. They could see drug residue on the can.

The im­pli­ca­tion was that he was smok­ing crack co­caine, said O’Brien.

DeSan­tis was taken to a Hal­ton Re­gional Po­lice sta­tion be­cause it had the clos­est avail­able drug recog­ni­tion of­fi­cer on duty. The of­fi­cer con­cluded he was im­paired by a cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem stim­u­lant.

A urine sam­ple con­firmed the pres­ence of co­caine and two other sub­stances as­so­ci­ated with co­caine.

Agro said “thank­fully a mem­ber of the pub­lic no­ticed” the er­ratic driv­ing and called po­lice be­fore there was “any se­ri­ous in­jury to your­self or other users of the road.”

The fact it was “clear” he was con­sum­ing crack while driv­ing was an ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor, she said.

She called DeSan­tis “well-re­spected and cer­tainly well known,”

“It’s un­for­tu­nate your in­abil­ity to han­dle some of the stres­sors that life threw at you led to your drug use,” she said. .

Man­ishen told the court DeSan­tis has gone to about one dozen ses­sions at the Oakville Cen­tre for Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy since the re­lapse. He also has a va­ri­ety of health prob­lems.

“I urge you to con­tinue with ther­apy and the changes in life­style you’re mak­ing,” said Agro.

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