Michael Applebaum sentenced to 12 months behind bars

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum has been sentenced to 12 months in jail and two years' probation after being found guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

Provincial court Judge Louise Provost handed down her decision Thursday at the Montreal courthouse, saying Applebaum committed "very serious" crimes over a period of several years.

The 54-year-old was then handcuffed before addressing the court. Applebaum told the judge he will take time in jail to reflect upon his past actions and plan for the future.

"I can guarantee you and my family that I will be a better person when I come out," he said. 

"Since my arrest, I haven't been able to work and put food on the table for my family ... I have a remarkable family, and I will again put food on the table and make a life."

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, prosecutor Nathalie Kléber said the sentence sends a "clear message" that there are consequences to engaging in corruption.

Applebaum took power in 2013 on a promise to clean up Montreal City Hall.

Only seven months later, he was arrested on charges dating back to his time as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the city's largest borough.

The case centred on accepting cash from real estate developers and engineering firms in return for favours.

The sentencing was delayed by over an hour because, Provost said, Applebaum had to be treated in hospital for an unknown ailment earlier in the day.

Applebaum was convicted in January of eight corruption-related charges, including two counts each of fraud on the government, conspiracy to commit fraud on the government, breach of trust and conspiracy to commit breach of trust.

The maximum sentence Applebaum could have received was five years in prison.

Kléber had argued that Applebaum's sentence should be "significant, but reasonable" and asked for less than the maximum: two years in prison, followed by two years of probation.

Shady dealings

The crimes stem from a period between 2006 and 2012, and involve two projects: a proposed real estate development on de Troie Avenue, and a municipal contract for the management and maintenance of the NDG Sports Centre.

The Crown argued Applebaum asked for cash kickbacks in exchange for ensuring the projects were approved by his administration.

There was no paper trail linking Applebaum to the illicit cash, and in her ruling, Provost said she would have been surprised if the investigators had been able to seize any documents, given the extreme prudence shown by the accused. 

'Not an angel'

While Applebaum never admitted to any illegal activity on the surveillance recordings heard in court, Provost said she found several of his statements "troubling."

Applebaum was recorded saying to the Crown's star witness, former political aide Hugo Tremblay: "In the end they have to have the money."

The defence tried to shake the credibility of Tremblay, but Provost said she found his testimony "articulate and sincere."

The court heard that during one conversation in 2007, Tremblay recalls Applebaum saying, "We gotta make a living."

"I realized at that moment that Michael Applebaum was open to corruption," Tremblay told the court.

He said his boss told him he "was not an angel."