(Montreal) Gary Arnold, a Quebec man convicted of participating in the 2020 kidnapping of an American couple from upstate New York, was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison.
Judge Michel Pennou, of the Superior Court in Montreal, clarified on Monday that taking into account the time already served in preventive detention, Arnold will still have to spend nine years, two months and six days in prison.
Considering all of the evidence, Justice Pennou concluded, the court is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Arnold was involved from start to finish in the planning and execution of the kidnapping. and extortion.
The Crown was seeking a 17-year sentence for Arnold, who was arrested on October 1, 2020, and convicted by a jury in February of five counts, including kidnapping, extortion and conspiracy to kidnap.
It was learned at trial that Arnold had been part of a plot to kidnap James and Sandra Helm, a couple in their 70s from Moira, upstate New York. The suit argued that the two American septuagenarians were abducted in a drug deal gone wrong involving their grandson.
Four co-defendants in the case were arrested on September 29, 2020 – the same day members of the Sûreté du Québec’s Tactical Intervention Group freed the couple from a cottage in Magog, in the Eastern Townships, after two days of sequestration. The other four defendants received sentences of six to 15 years in prison.
The Crown says the two Americans were abducted as leverage by a group of men who wanted to collect 50 pounds of cocaine or $3.5 million in cash, since their grandson was arrested in Vermont six days earlier in possession of the drug.
The Helms had been abducted from their home and smuggled into Canada through the Mohawk Territory of Kanesatake, then held in a cabin in Magog.
Judge Pennou cited a number of aggravating factors that would justify a longer sentence, including the age and vulnerability of the victims, as well as the impact of these traumatic events on their health and daily life. Arnold also had a criminal record related to smuggling drugs and cigarettes, although none of his offenses were violent.
But the judge admitted that Arnold had been subjected to particularly harsh conditions of detention, which the magistrate said should reduce the time the defendant will still have to spend behind bars. Arnold, the judge said, was denied medication he had been prescribed for psoriasis, a painful skin condition.
The defense had requested 10 years in prison for Arnold, who argued at trial that he acted under threats to his life and family, knew nothing of the kidnapping plot and had never met a member of the Helm family. He also denied being inside the couple’s home.
Arnold said he took orders from a certain “Big”, who asked him to perform various tasks such as carrying phones, texting, and retrieving catheters that Sandra Helm needed.
Judge Pennou said that while it was impossible to know precisely why the jury reached its verdict, he described Arnold’s testimony as generally not credible, which left a strong impression of sheer fabrication.
The judge said the testimony included startling details about conversations that allegedly took place two years earlier, as well as convenient and nonsensical claims by the defendant. While it is not implausible that Arnold was pressured to participate in the crimes, Judge Pennou said his testimony could not be trusted.
Speaking after the sentencing, Crown Prosecutor Kim Chaiken acknowledged that the 13 years were lower than the 17 years the prosecution had hoped for, adding that she would take the time to read the judgment before deciding to appeal. . As James Helm passed away, she recalled that Sandra Helm would have to live with the impact of this kidnapping.
“It is certain that Mrs. Helm and her son experienced these events in a very difficult way and even today, they have impacts that will remain until the end of their days, in terms of fear for their safety as well as than their way of life which has completely changed,” Mr. Chaiken explained as he left the courtroom. “We’ll wish them good luck. »
Defense attorney John T. Pepper Jr. said the judge took into account that his client did not receive required medical treatment while in custody. He said the lack of medication while in detention caused his client severe bouts of pain that even left bloodstains on his sheets.
“Two defendants were sentenced to 15 years and 13 years, our client is sentenced to 13 years, minus the credit he is entitled to [for preventive detention]. The judge applied the law correctly,” summarized Mr. Pepper Jr. “In my opinion, it would be difficult to overturn (this sentence) in the Court of Appeal. »