MONTREAL – Hockey legend Guy Lafleur didn’t flinch as a judge handed him a suspended sentence on Thursday for giving contradictory testimony in an attempt to help his son nearly two years ago.
The former Montreal Canadiens sniper, no stranger to pressure-packed situations, remained stoic as Quebec court Judge Claude Parent read the sentence, which means Lafleur now has a criminal record.
Parent said he couldn’t conclude Lafleur acted deliberately in giving the contradictory testimony at his son Mark’s bail hearing in 2007.
But that didn’t matter, he ruled.
“Nothing justifies or excuses his actions,” the judge said in giving Lafleur a one-year suspended sentence and a $100 fine and ordering him to donate $10,000 to a foundation for a rehab centre for youth.
Lafleur did not speak to reporters, while his lawyer, Jean-Pierre Rancourt, said he had no comment because he is appealing the guilty verdict Parent handed down May 1.
The appeal motion argues the judge made an error in law and that a false declaration must be made with the intent to mislead instead of what his lawyer argues was an inadvertent omission in Lafleur’s case.
The Quebec Court of Appeal will hear the case later this year.
Lafleur’s problems started after he told his son’s bail hearing in September 2007 that Mark always respected his court-ordered curfew and never consumed drugs and alcohol on his watch.
At the time, the hockey star had agreed to supervise his son and ensure he abided by court orders.
But during another court hearing just a month later, court heard the elder Lafleur drove his son to a hotel for an intimate encounter with his 16-year-old girlfriend on two occasions.
Lafleur said his son told him his curfew did not extend to any particular location which is why he allowed the trysts. He argued as much during his own trial, testifying the hotel visits had slipped his mind.
He insisted over and over that his son abided by the curfew and other rules while at the hotel.
The Hockey Hall of Famer has also filed a $3.5-million civil lawsuit against the Montreal police and the Crown over the warrant used to arrest him in early 2008. The arrest triggered a media frenzy for one of the province’s most recognizable sports stars.
During an earlier court hearing, Parent agreed with Lafleur’s lawyers that authorities violated his rights when they issued the warrant, but said that alone was not enough to dismiss the charge.
Lafleur, 57, known to fans as the Blond Demon and the Flower during an illustrious career that saw him lead the Canadiens to five Stanley Cups, has said the widespread media attention the case has received has caused him tremendous humiliation.
The Crown had suggested a conditional sentence to be served in the community, while Lafleur’s lawyers had asked for a fine.
The maximum penalty for giving contradictory evidence before a court is 14 years in prison.
In his ruling, Parent cited jurisprudence that repeatedly stated perjury is a serious crime that cannot be condoned if respect for the justice system is to be maintained.
Parent also said the amount of media attention Lafleur’s case received had sent a strong message to the public to that effect.
The younger Lafleur pleaded guilty in February to a slew of charges including uttering death threats, forcible confinement and assault.
He was issued a 15-month conditional sentence.