Sen­tenc­ing hear­ing

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY KIRK STARRATT ,*/(4$06/5:/&84 $" ,&/57*--& LTUBSSBUU!LJOHTDPVOUZOFXT DB

A for­mer vol­un­teer trea­surer who stole thou­sands of dol­lars from the An­napo­lis Val­ley Hon­our Choir (AVHC) has pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000 and will be sen­tenced later this month.

“I’d just like to apol­o­gize for what I’ve done. I’m cer­tainly sorry for what I’ve done to the hon­our choir, my fam­ily and the com­mu­nity,” Al­lan Joseph Macdonnell, 54, said at his Feb. 8 sen­tenc­ing hear­ing.

The Cold­brook man was orig­i­nally charged with de­fraud­ing the choir of $14,000 and had ear­lier pleaded guilty. With the con­sent of Crown at­tor­ney Mark Gouthro, the guilty plea was with­drawn Feb. 8 and in­stead, Macdonnell pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000.

Gouthro had asked the RCMP to lay the new charge. Al­though he’s op­posed to a dis­charge for Macdonnell, Gouthro wanted to give the de­fence, Nova Sco­tia Le­gal Aid lawyer Brian Vardi­gans, an op­por­tu­nity to ar­gue for one.

Gouthro said Macdonnell wrote mul­ti­ple cheques to him­self from the AVHC bank ac­count be­tween Jan. 31 and May 30, 2014. The AVHC pres­i­dent gave Macdonnell the op­por­tu­nity to re­pay the funds, but re­ported the sit­u­a­tion to the RCMP when Macdonnell failed to do so.

Al­though it was said in a vic­tim im­pact state­ment from the hon­our choir that $29,000 had been taken, the amount be­fore the court was $14,000. Some choir mem­bers couldn’t travel to New­found­land as planned be­cause of the miss­ing funds.

The choir had to in­volve pro­fes­sion­als to re­view the mat­ter, which pre­sented an un­spec­i­fied cost to the not-for-profit group, and they’ve had trou­ble at­tract­ing vol­un­teers since the mat­ter un­folded.

Gouthro said Macdonnell, a Depart­ment of Jus­tice em­ployee, has no is­sues with al­co­hol or drugs and has no prior crim­i­nal record. He had at least one child who was a mem­ber of the hon­our choir dur­ing the time frame the of­fence was com­mit­ted.

Gouthro is seek­ing a sen­tence of one day deemed served and three years of pro­ba­tion, be­cause “the Crown wants to see this or­ga­ni­za­tion get their money back.”

He is also ask­ing for a stand­alone resti­tu­tion or­der for $14,000 and resti­tu­tion as a con­di­tion of pro­ba­tion. The money would be re­paid at a rate of $388.89 per month. The Crown is also seek­ing 80 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice work.

“This might take away some of the sting this has had in the lo­cal area,” Gouthro said.

Vardi­gans ar­gued against a sen­tence of one day deemed served, as this would pre­clude a dis­charge.

“Some­times a re­ally good per­son does some­thing that’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble,” Vardi­gans said.

Vardi­gans said Macdonnell has just been dis­charged from a se­cond bank­ruptcy. He said threats had been made against Macdonnell’s fam­ily through a third party. Macdonnell had come into con­tact with in­di­vid­u­als through his job with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice who tried to “en­tice” him to take drugs into the jail sys­tem. Vardi­gans said Macdonnell felt threat­ened and ended up pay­ing out $15,000.

Judge Jean Whalen, present via video link, asked if Macdonnell had ever thought about call­ing the po­lice or re­port­ing the al­leged ex­tor­tion. Vardi­gans said some­times peo­ple do “strange things” un­der stress.

“I think it’s clear this is to­tally out of char­ac­ter for Mr. Macdonnell,” Vardi­gans said.

Vardi­gans said the theft of funds wasn’t so­phis­ti­cated. He said noth­ing could be so “bla­tant and ob­vi­ous” as Macdonnell writ­ing cheques to him­self from the AVHC ac­count.

Vardi­gans said there’s no rea­son to sad­dle Macdonnell with a crim­i­nal record, as this could af­fect his em­ploy­ment and sub­stan­tially re­duce the chances of the hon­our choir re­coup­ing the stolen funds. He said Macdonnell sim­ply wants to put this be­hind him and the im­por­tant thing is that repa­ra­tions be made.

Whalen said she would take some time to con­sider sub­mis­sions and ad­journed the sen­tenc­ing to Feb. 22. Gouthro will ap­pear via video link from Syd­ney that day.

The Kings District RCMP laid the orig­i­nal charge against Macdonnell fol­low­ing a nine-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Po­lice re­ceived a com­plaint about the miss­ing funds on Dec. 5, 2014.

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