Pas­sen­ger who flew on plane smug­gling co­caine sen­tenced

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Earl Rine­hart er­ine­hart@dispatch.com @es­rine­hart

The pas­sen­ger in a Cana­dian plane loaded with 290 pounds of co­caine that was forced to land at Ohio Univer­sity’s air­port in south­ern Ohio was sen­tenced Thurs­day to 63 months in fed­eral prison.

David Ay­otte, 46, must serve five years on su­per­vised re­lease af­ter prison, dur­ing which he could be de­ported to his na­tive Canada. He can­not re­turn to the United States with­out the per­mis­sion of the U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Mar­b­ley said.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Mike Hunter did not op­pose the sen­tence.

Ay­otte was in the twinengine plane with pi­lot Syl­vain Des­jardins, 48, who is also Cana­dian, when it made an emer­gency land­ing March 29 at Ohio Univer­sity’s Gor­don K. Bush Air­port af­ter de­vel­op­ing engine trou­ble. Au­thor­i­ties said the 132 bun­dles of co­caine had been stowed on one side of the air­craft, caus­ing an engine to work harder and over­heat try­ing to keep the plane level.

The two men, who are from Mirabel, a sub­urb of Mon­treal, pleaded guilty ear­lier this year to pos­ses­sion with the in­tent to dis­trib­ute the co­caine. Des­jardins also agreed to for­feit the plane, a 1969 twinengine Piper Navajo, to the U.S. govern­ment.

Des­jardins is sched­uled to be sen­tenced Oct. 27. Pros­e­cu­tors are seek­ing 96 months in prison for him.

U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion tracked the air­craft af­ter it left the Ba­hamas and be­came sus­pi­cious when it di­verted to the OU air­port. The plane was des­tined for On­tario, Canada, of­fi­cials said. The plane was met at the air­port by Athens County deputies, univer­sity po­lice of­fi­cers and U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents.

Speak­ing through a French in­ter­preter, Ay­otte told Mar­b­ley that he was sorry for what he did, es­pe­cially for the ef­fect it has had on his wife and teenage son.

De­fense at­tor­ney Diane Me­nashe said Ay­otte’s fam­ily has been in tough fi­nan­cial straits since his ar­rest. Mar­b­ley agreed to rec­om­mend that Ay­otte be held in the U.S. prison clos­est to the border with Quebec so his fam­ily could visit him.

Ay­otte

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