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|Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007|
|Drug dealer denies he was kingpin|
|By Sue Montgomery, The Gazette (Montreal)|
MONTREAL, Feb. 19, 2007 - Bernard Mathieu, convicted of controlling a group of drug dealers who gave high school students their first hit of crack cocaine free of charge, made an impassioned speech from the prisoner's box yesterday, saying he would pay for what he'd done, but not for what he's been accused of.
Mathieu, who came to Canada from Haiti 27 years ago when he was just 8, said he might have trafficked a few kilograms of cocaine, but was never the boss of a network of dealers that held Pelletier Ave. in Montreal North hostage.
He was convicted last month of gangsterism, trafficking in cocaine, crack and marijuana and conspiracy to traffic, along with several others.
"Not one of the 15 accused (in this case) had the courage to say I wasn't their leader," Mathieu said during sentencing arguments.
At times crying, Mathieu said almost two years in prison has taught him that he doesn't belong in the criminal milieu and once out, would like to work with youth to keep them from entering gangs.
A landed immigrant, he will also fight deportation to Haiti, not for himself, but for his mother, 74, who sat in the court crying.
Earlier in the day, the court heard from a street-gang expert that students at Calixa-Lavallee School in Montreal North were given "juices" - a marijuana cigarette laced with the highly addictive residue that comes from making crack.
"They think it's just pot, but once they smoke it, they discover it's much more," said Montreal police Det.-Sgt. Jean-Claude Gauthier.
Mathieu, a smooth-talking businessman, controlled Pelletier for at least a decade, Gauthier testified, saying the gang intimidated and frightened residents.
Mathieu's version is that he was respected on the street and often gave people advice for their problems.
The Crown is asking that Mathieu be given a sentence of between 12 and 15 years.
"Selling drugs at a high school is a violent crime," said prosecutor Eric de Chamblain.
Defence lawyer Clemente Monterosso argued such a harsh sentence would be more appropriate for dealers working on an international scale and would send the message that if you're going to deal, you might as well go big, because the sentence will be the same. He suggested Mathieu get between six and eight years.
Jean-Robert Pierre Antoine, who has been out on bail, collapsed on the stand after he was unable to clarify how much money he'd made for trips to Ottawa to pick up cocaine. The Crown seeking a nine-year sentence for him.
Quebec Court Judge Jean-Pierre Bonin is to render his decision tomorrow.
Earlier yesterday, two members of the gang, Loukens Fevrius, 24, and Clinton St. Thomas, 30, were sentenced to six years in prison for trafficking and gangsterism.
Once time already served is deducted, they have two years and three months left in their sentences.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007. Reprinted from The Gazette (Montreal) of Tuesday, February 20, 2007.
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