Rabbi pleads for le­niency in Ap­ple­baum’ sen­tence

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - News - JAN­ICE ARNOLD jarnold@thecjn.ca

The rabbi of Michael Ap­ple­baum pleaded for clemency at the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing for the for­mer Mon­treal mayor on Feb. 15.

In a let­ter submitted to court, Rabbi Alan Bright of Shaare Zedek Con­gre­ga­tion de­scribed his con­gre­gant as a bro­ken man who has con­tem­plated sui­cide and urged Judge Louise Provost to show le­niency.

In Jan­uary, Ap­ple­baum, who served as in­terim mayor from Novem­ber 2012 to June 2013, was found guilty of eight fraud and cor­rup­tion-re­lated charges. He faces a max­i­mum five-year prison term.

Ap­ple­baum, Mon­treal’s first Jewish mayor, pleaded not guilty to all of the 14 charges orig­i­nally brought against him.

The crimes, stem­ming from the ex­tor­tion of bribes in ex­change for favourable municipal de­ci­sions sought by de­vel­op­ers, were com­mit­ted ear­lier, while he was bor­ough mayor of Côte des Neiges-notre Dame de Grâce.

Crown prose­cu­tor Nathalie Kle­ber rec­om­mended two years in jail, fol­lowed by two years of pro­ba­tion. Ap­ple­baum’s lawyer Pierre Teas­dale wants a sus­pended sen­tence or, fail­ing that, a com­bi­na­tion of house ar­rest, com­mu­nity ser­vice and week­end prison time of no more than 15 months.

In his elo­quent plea, Rabbi Bright wrote that Ap­ple­baum, who was ar­rested in June 2013, has al­ready paid “an ex­or­bi­tant price for his ac­tions,” one that he will con­tinue to pay for the rest of his life. He said he has seen dras­tic changes in Ap­ple­baum’s per­son­al­ity and health since then and a fam­ily that is suf­fer­ing.

“There were times over the past three years that he stood at the precipice, as­sured that sui­cide, the very per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to a tem­po­rary prob­lem, was the an­swer… These were very dark times for his fam­ily, and I can as­sure you your hon­our that it was not easy to pull him back from that point.”

Rabbi Bright de­scribed Ap­ple­baum as hav­ing de­te­ri­o­rated from be­ing “an up­beat, zest­ful man, a man for whom no task was too great, a man who was present, day and night… a man who can­not say no to his fel­low man re­gard­less of re­li­gion, colour, race, rank, fame or for­tune.

“To­day that same man is a bro­ken man. A man for whom sui­cide seemed the only relief to his an­guish.”

Rabbi Bright said he has known Ap­ple­baum, 54, and his fam­ily, which in­cludes three chil­dren, for more than 10 years and that since his ar­rest, the re­la­tion­ship has be­come even deeper and he has been coun­selling him at least weekly.

De­spite the ap­pear­ance of emo­tional con­trol, Ap­ple­baum, he said, is in pain and de­spair due to his feel­ing of hav­ing failed his fam­ily and oth­ers, lost his dig­nity and been shunned by his com­mu­nity and the pub­lic at large.

Rabbi Bright also spoke of Ap­ple­baum’s de­vo­tion to his wi­d­owed el­derly mother “who so des­per­ately needs him.”

The many years Ap­ple­baum spent in pub­lic ser­vice are now lost for­ever, Rabbi Bright ar­gued. “The trust that so many be­stowed upon him is im­pos­si­ble to recre­ate.”

In­stead, he said, Ap­ple­baum “will be re­mem­bered as the mayor of Mon­treal who was taken in shame from his home on live television,” a ref­er­ence to his early-morn­ing ar­rest, which was cov­ered ex­ten­sively by the me­dia.

He con­cludes that Ap­ple­baum’s “in­car­cer­a­tion will serve no use­ful pur­pose to a man who is of no threat to any­body, other than per­haps him­self, and has paid an ex­or­bi­tant price for his ac­tions.” The rabbi said he re­gret­ted not ap­pear­ing in per­son, but was com­mit­ted to con­duct­ing two fu­ner­als that day.

The court also heard from Ap­ple­baum’s 23-year-old son Dy­lan, who was close to tears in de­scrib­ing the de­cline in his fa­ther’s phys­i­cal and men­tal well-be­ing.

“He seems de­feated now,” he said. “Phys­i­cally, he’s not great. Men­tally, he’s not great ei­ther.”

He said his fa­ther had al­ways been a source of strength and joy for the fam­ily, but that has changed.

Ap­ple­baum, who was a li­censed real es­tate agent, has been un­able to work since his ar­rest, he said.

A for­mer em­ployer, Salvatore Sansa­lone, tes­ti­fied that Ap­ple­baum had only sold one house since his ar­rest.

Judge Provost said she will make her de­ci­sion known on March 30.

Ap­ple­baum has not filed an ap­peal.

JAN­ICE ARNOLD FILE PHOTO

Rabbi Alan Bright

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.