Sentencing for Brian Caskenette questions house arrest

Former Cornwall Minor Hockey Association President Brian Caskenette and his lawyer, Ian Paul, leave the courthouse in Cornwall, Ont. Thursday, March 1, 2018. The court heard sentencing submissions for Caskenette on a conviction of fraud. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Brian Caskenette, the former president of the Cornwall Hockey Minor Association (CMHA), will be serving jail time at some point for defrauding the organization.

The question is whether that will be served in a correctional facility or in the community under house arrest.

The prosecution is seeking 16 months of “real jail,” followed by probation for three years, during which time Caskenette would make restitution to the CMHA. The defence wants either six months in jail or 12 months of house arrest (a conditional sentence) as well as restitution.

Crown attorney Andre White said a jail sentence was important to send a message of general deterrence, especially in a smaller city like Cornwall.

Being the CMHA president was a volunteer position but Caskenette “thought he could turn it into a position of remuneration” based on a self assessment of his hard work, White said.

The 60-year-old Caskenette was convicted in December of fraud over $5,000 for unauthorized personal expenses on a CMHA credit card between November 2011 and May 2014 following a trial last year. The total was around $12,381 and included vacations, car tires, auto repairs for his niece and counter tops, court heard. There were also cash advances on the credit card but the judge wasn’t able to quantify it, though Rick Leroy believed the majority of the $34,192 was spent on CMHA business – but not all of it.

Defense lawyer Ian Paul argued that the crime had a lack of sophistication and similar cases of fraud, in the range of $35,000 to $40,000, resulted in a conditional sentence. Other mitigating factors Paul noted were the period of time over which the crime occurred and that Caskenette has no criminal record.

There was some question before the court whether Caskenette can even receive a house arrest sentence for his conviction on fraud over $5,000.

White said a conditional sentence was “not available” due to a change in the law in 2012 but he later questioned his own assertion, calling the legal briefing notes from that rule change “strange.” Reading from the document, White said the conditional sentence was not available for theft over $5,000 but it didn’t say fraud, though White seemed to discount it, saying the terms are “interchangeable often.”

Both sides were also at odds over paying back the CMHA. Caskenette’s lawyer suggested “at least $500 a month” though the Crown noted his take home income was around $6,000 – a combination of WSIB and a paycheque from his current job – plus his wife brings home $1,550 bi-weekly. Defense lawyer Ian Paul said his client could “potentially pay more.”

Judge Rick Leroy didn’t make his decision today. Both the Crown and defense have to bring back case law showing conditional sentences for fraud, post-2012.

The case will be heard again on April 12.