Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum was sentenced to 12 months in prison and two years’ probation on March 30 after being found guilty of corruption-related charges in January.
Quebec Court Judge Louise Provost, in handing down her decision, said Applebaum had committed “very serious” crimes over a number of years.
The prosecution had recommended that he serve two years behind bars. Applebaum’s lawyer wanted nothing harsher than weekend jail time and house arrest lasting no more than 15 months. He had faced a maximum five-year sentence.
After the sentencing, Applbaum, who had not testified at his trial, addressed the court. He referred to his Jewish heritage. “One thing that is very important is to be able to do mitzvahs. A mitzvah, in Jewish, is to do a good act…
“I did a lot of good acts when I was a mayor and when I was an elected official…And one day, I don’t know how or where, but I assure you I will do mitzvahs again, because when you are put on earth, the question often is what have you done in your life and I want to be able to say that I did mitzvahs, and that I gave to the population.”
Applebaum, 54, who served as interim mayor from November 2012 to June 2013, when he was arrested, was found guilty of eight fraud and breach of trust charges. Six other charges were either dismissed or stayed.
The crimes, stemming from the extortion of cash bribes totalling about $60,000 in exchange for favourable municipal decisions sought by real estate developers and an engineering firm, were committed earlier, while he was borough mayor of Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce between 2006 and 2012.
At Applebaum’s sentencing hearing in February, his rabbi, Rabbi Alan Bright of Shaare Zedek Congregation, pleaded for leniency, describing him as a broken man who had contemplated suicide.
He said Applebaum had already paid “an exorbitant price for his actions” and his life will never be the same due to the shame he has endured and the trust he has lost.
Applebaum, first elected to city council in 1994, was Montreal’s first Jewish mayor and the first anglophone in a century.
One of Applebaum’s three children, Dylan, spoke emotionally at the sentencing hearing about his father’s mental and physical decline, and how he had struggled to make a living since his arrest. Applebaum, a real estate agent, had had little business due to the criminal accusations.
His conviction was based largely on the testimony of his former chief of staff, Hugo Tremblay, who was the go-between for the kickbacks. He co-operated with police in the investigation, and even wore a wire of his conversations with Applebaum.
Applebaum, however, never directly admitted to any illegal activity in the recordings and there was no paper trail, nevertheless Provost found his references to the dealings “troubling” and Tremblay’s testimony credible.
Applebaum continued to have his supporters. Côte St. Luc city councillor Mike Cohen blogged before the sentencing, “I, personally, was very surprised that Applebaum was even found guilty. Most people I spoke to who followed the trial… were convinced that he’d be acquitted…
“The thing is, Applebaum has already received the harshest punishment in the court of public opinion,” referring to Applebaum’s humiliating arrest at his home, which was covered live on television.