Lawyer ac­cused of ob­struct­ing jus­tice ‘acted in good faith,’ at­tor­ney says

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - PAUL CHERRY

What kind of a lawyer agrees to meet with a com­plete stranger and hand her an en­ve­lope, with no knowl­edge of its contents, and never ques­tions whether he might be break­ing the law?

That is the ques­tion pros­e­cu­tor Jen­nifer Morin put to Que­bec Court Judge Marc-André Da­ge­nais on Wed­nes­day while wrap­ping up her clos­ing ar­gu­ments in the trial of Mon­treal lawyer Dim­itrios Stra­p­at­sas. The 43-year-old at­tor­ney is charged with ob­struct­ing jus­tice for al­legedly help­ing con­victed murderer John Boulach­a­nis ar­range to have a video­taped state­ment a wit­ness gave to po­lice in 2014 (be­fore Boulach­a­nis’s mur­der trial was held) up­loaded to YouTube. The Crown al­leges the goal was to in­tim­i­date the wit­ness (a rob­ber who was de­tained with Boulach­a­nis at the Rivière­des-Prairies De­ten­tion Cen­tre in 2014) so he wouldn’t tes­tify in the mur­der trial held last year.

The wit­ness, whose name can­not be pub­lished due to a pub­li­ca­tion ban, did tes­tify and a jury found Boulach­a­nis guilty of first-de­gree mur­der in De­cem­ber.

When the trial be­gan on Tuesday, Boulach­a­nis and Stra­p­at­sas were co-ac­cused. Hours later, Boulach­a­nis’s lawyer, Marc La­belle, asked that their cases be sev­ered be­cause Stra­p­at­sas’s lawyer, Fabio Dell’Aquila, an­nounced he would ask both men to tes­tify for the de­fence. La­belle ob­vi­ously did not agree with the strat­egy of hav­ing his client placed on the wit­ness stand.

Boulach­a­nis tes­ti­fied even though his case was sev­ered. He claimed he handed over the wrong CD to a fel­low de­tainee be­fore the video was posted on YouTube by the de­tainee’s girl­friend. Boulach­a­nis said he wanted to have a dif­fer­ent video, show­ing how filthy the de­ten­tion cen­tre was, posted on YouTube in­stead. He also said Stra­p­at­sas did not know why Boulach­a­nis later in­structed him to hand an en­ve­lope to the de­tainee’s girl­friend af­ter the video was made avail­able on the in­ter­net.

Stra­p­at­sas tes­ti­fied that he did hand the woman an en­ve­lope, on April 15, 2015, at a Tim Hor­tons near the de­ten­tion cen­tre. He said he as­sumed there was money in­side but did not ask Boulach­a­nis the amount (it was $200). He also said he as­sumed he was pay­ing a bill as he had done on a reg­u­lar ba­sis for Boulach­a­nis in the past.

On Wed­nes­day, Morin said Stra­p­at­sas’s ver­sion of events makes no sense. She noted that Stra­p­at­sas has been a de­fence lawyer for a decade now.

“What kind of a lawyer would meet with a per­son they do not know at a Tim Hor­tons at night and hand them an en­ve­lope with­out know­ing what is in­side,” Morin asked while dis­put­ing Stra­p­at­sas’s claim of ig­no­rance.

Dell’Aquila said there is no ev­i­dence to show Stra­p­at­sas knew a video had been posted to YouTube. He ar­gued that, as far as Stra­p­at­sas is con­cerned, the case can be in­ter­preted in two dif­fer­ent ways: If the judge be­lieves Boulach­a­nis’s claim that he handed over the wrong CD, then there was no in­tent to ob­struct jus­tice. If Da­ge­nais does not be­lieve Boulach­a­nis, then Stra­p­at­sas was merely “act­ing in good faith” and did not know he was pay­ing a woman for hav­ing up­loaded the video, Dell’Aquila ar­gued.

“If Mr. Boulach­a­nis lied to (the other de­tainee about the contents of the video), it is highly pos­si­ble he lied to Mr. Stra­p­at­sas,” Dell’Aquila said. “I would sub­mit to you that Mr. Stra­p­at­sas made a bad choice, but not to ob­struct jus­tice. He acted in good faith.”

Da­ge­nais is sched­uled to de­liver his de­ci­sion on a ver­dict in Oc­to­ber. Boulach­a­nis’s case re­turns to court in Novem­ber.


Dim­itrios Stra­p­at­sas, left, and lawyer Fabio Dell’Aquila claim Stra­p­at­sas did not know what was in the en­ve­lope at the heart of the ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charge he faces.

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