News / Canada

Crown seeking two-year prison term for ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum leaves a courtroom following the verdict reading in his case, in Montreal in a January 26, 2017, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum leaves a courtroom following the verdict reading in his case, in Montreal in a January 26, 2017, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL — Two different pictures of ex-Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum emerged Wednesday: a man at the top of a corruption scheme who deserves prison time versus a broken individual who's suffered greatly and warrants leniency.

The prosecution called for a two-year prison sentence for Applebaum followed by two years' probation after he was found guilty last month on eight of 14 corruption-related charges.

The charges stemmed from two separate deals between 2007 and 2010 when Applebaum was mayor of Montreal's largest borough. He was convicted of pocketing about $37,000 in kickbacks from developers and engineering firms through his former aide.

The Crown told the court two years would be fair given recent high-profile corruption cases in Quebec and that it is key to send a dissuasive message when the public are the victims.

"It is important that the population understands that those crimes have to be punished and deserve sentences that reflect that punishment," said prosecutor Nathalie Kleber.

Defence lawyer Pierre Teasdale countered with a recommendation of either a suspended sentence or a mixed sentence that could include probation, community work and non-consecutive jail time.

He said the circumstances of Applebaum's case don't match up with two mentioned by Kleber: ex-federal Liberal organizer Jacques Corriveau's and that of former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault.

Teasdale also noted that two others arrested at the same time as Applebaum but who pleaded guilty received far lesser sentences than what the Crown is seeking.

"For a first-time offender ... they're asking for 40 per cent of the maximum sentence ... just to send a message," Teasdale told the court.

Applebaum, 54, faces a maximum of five years in jail.

Quebec court Judge Louise Provost will rule March 30.

Applebaum didn't testify but family and acquaintances told the court he has endured tremendous hardship after living under the cloud of criminal charges for more than three years.

Dylan Applebaum, the ex-mayor's 23-year-old son, testified his father is depressed and struggling to provide for his family.

"The last couple of weeks, it's been even more sad around the house, less joking, less laughter everywhere," he said. "It was not what we ever imagined for our family or the way we would be living."

Provost convicted Applebaum in late January of various charges including fraud against the government, breach of trust and conspiracy. He was acquitted on two charges, while four others were conditionally stayed because of the guilty verdicts on the more serious charges.

The younger Applebaum said he worries about his father's health and that he seems defeated and sad, no longer the man who always appeared ready to accomplish great things.

"You can see that it has affected him, mentally and physically," he said in sometimes tearful testimony.

Applebaum's attempt to get back into real estate has largely failed because of the notoriety surrounding his case. A longtime friend who hired him testified he managed just one sale in the past three years, earning $12,050. Applebaum's real-estate licence was suspended in early February after the verdict.

The family rabbi also expressed concern about Applebaum's health, sending a letter to the court pleading for leniency and telling the judge Applebaum had considered suicide.

Rabbi Alan W. Bright wrote that Applebaum knows his public service record "is now for naught," including his stint as mayor in 2012-2013, and that he will more likely be remembered for his arrest on live TV.

"His public service to which so much of his life has been devoted is lost forever," Bright wrote. "The trust that so many bestowed upon him is impossible to recreate."

More on Metronews.ca