|Lila Huston, mother of the victim Dawn Huston, is seen leaving the courtroom on Friday. (Chris Procaylo, QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg woman responsible for a drunk driving crash that left her friend a quadriplegic will devote the rest of her life to helping others, a court was told Friday.
"I want to be held accountable for my actions," said Jakelynn Payne, her words wrapped in tortured sobs. "All I ever wanted was to set a good example for (my younger siblings). I never thought I would be in this position."
Payne, 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
On Feb. 26, 2010, Payne was behind the wheel of a Dodge Stealth driving south on Highway 59 when she blew through a red light at the Perimeter and collided with an eastbound tractor-trailer unit. The car drove under the trailer, had its roof sheared off, and went out the other side.
Friend and passenger Dawn Huston, now 30, suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury and is now paralyzed from the neck down.
"She was a good friend, someone I could talk to and confide in and I miss her so much," Payne said. "Dawn's life is ruined because I got behind the wheel and drove under the influence of alcohol."
Payne, Huston and another woman had been drinking at an East St. Paul residence earlier in the evening and were on their way to a social in St. Vital at the time of the crash.
Payne agreed to drive the women to the social but there was never any discussion of her being the designated driver, said defence lawyer Richard Wolson.
"The plan was not to drink a large amount of liquor beforehand," Wolson said. "The terrible error in judgment was made by all three ladies when they made the decision to get in the car having consumed liquor."
The Crown is recommending Payne receive a jail sentence of between five and 24 months. Wolson urged Judge Patti Umpherville to sentence Payne to no more than three months in custody, which she could serve on weekends.
In the year and a half since the collision, Payne has devoted herself to numerous causes, including the Elizabeth Fry Society, Winnipeg Harvest, the Christmas Cheer Board and others, Wolson said.
"Giving back to the community is what this young lady has decided she must do for the rest of her life," he said.
Huston was not present for Friday's hearing. Her mother Lila declined to comment outside court, saying she didn't want to be unfair to the Payne family.
Judge Patti Umpherville will sentence Payne Oct. 3.