Imprisoned former NHL defenceman Rob Ramage was granted partial freedom at a parole hearing Friday. A two-member panel of the Parole Board of Canada granted Ramage’s request for unescorted passes. He will be able to leave Frontenac Institution, the minimum-security prison in Kingston, Ontario, where he is serving his four-year sentence, without an escort. “That would be for up to 72 hours a month,” said Carol Sparling, a spokeswoman for the board in Kingston.
Ramage, 52, has been behind bars for eight months, since he lost an appeal last year of his conviction for impaired driving causing the death of retired NHL star Keith Magnuson. Magnuson (inset), a close friend of Ramage, was a passenger in a car driven by Ramage that slammed head on into an SUV on a four-lane road just north of Toronto in 2003. A toxicologist concluded that Ramage had consumed 15 to 20 drinks in the hours before the crash. A Concord, Ont., woman driving the SUV was seriously hurt.
Ramage was found guilty of impaired driving causing death and four other charges. Ontario’s top court rejected his appeal of his convictions and sentence but described him as an “outstanding member of the community” and noted that he “will probably never forgive himself for what has happened to his friend.”
The two parole board members could not agree whether to grant Ramage day parole, release to a halfway house. Because of the deadlock, another hearing will be scheduled with two new members, likely in the next one to two months.
“We’ll move as quickly as we can,” Sparling said.
The board will reconsider all of the same material and any new information about Ramage’s conduct in prison during the intervening period, she said.
Magnuson’s family urged the judge at his sentencing in 2007 not to put him behind bars.
Ramage played 18 seasons in the NHL, winning Stanley Cups in Calgary and Montreal. He was captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1989 to 1991.
Ramage’s sentence expires in July 2014.
(I’ll post the written record of Ramage’s parole hearing as soon as it becomes available)