Former Canadian publisher pleads for Caribbean vacation before serving sentence
TORONTO, Dec. 7, CMC – A former newspaper publisher has pleaded with an Ontario Superior Court judge for mercy, telling the judge that he would like to spend the winter in Barbados before serving an expected house arrest sentence in Kitchener, Ontario.
Bob Verdun, the former publisher of the Elmira Independent newspaper, tried to strike a deal with Justice Robert Goldstein at his sentencing hearing for his second contempt of court conviction, his latest in a string of legal troubles, according to the Waterloo Region Record.
“I have been absolutely beaten down by this, and I have learned, learned, learned,” said Verdun in court on Friday. “I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I beg this court for mercy.”
The self-described “public interest crusader,” who was convicted of defaming former Clarica executive Robert Astley in 2011, has falsely accused Astley of cheating taxpayers.
The paper said Verdun now owes Astley, the former chair of Wilfrid Laurier University, more than CAN$900,000 in damages and costs after a long legal battle.
On Friday, Verdun asked his new sentence be delayed so he can winter in the Caribbean, with his common-law wife, for health reasons.
But Astley's lawyer, Brian Radnoff, strongly objected.
“You've heard this before; and yet, here we are again,” the lawyer said. “He's consistently disobeyed court orders, and shown a significant level of disrespect for this court. A message must be sent.”
Verdun, 64, started his sentencing hearing by dismissing Arnold Zweig as his legal counsel, telling the court “my lawyer has abandoned me.”
He represented himself for the rest of the hearing, and apologized to Justice Goldstein for his “error in judgment” for defying the court again, the Record said.
Verdun said he stayed in Europe, despite the court order, because he had to care for his common-law wife, who has back problems.
“My client has no hope of ever getting any money from Mr. Verdun,” said Radnoff, strongly opposing Verdun's request that any new sentence be delayed so he can return to Barbados, where he and his wife often rent an apartment for the winter.
“We are not here to make things convenient for Mr. Verdun or impose penalties that are consistent with Mr. Verdun's travel plans,” Radnoff said.
Verdun was ordered to stay in Ontario and leave his passport with the court office until Justice Goldstein hands down his sentence this week.
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