‘Where is he?’: Home invasion sentencing delayed again after lawyer goes MIA; accused wants to strike plea

The front entrance to the Cornwall courthouse at 29 Second Street West. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CLARIFICATION: In a court appearance June 20, 2019, lawyer Douglas Baum advised the court that John Wright was not counsel of record on the case and was on a leave of absence in order to pursue Olympic glory for Canada. Wright is a top ranked Canadian fencer. Judge Diane Lahaie corrected the mistake from June 7, 2019 saying that there was some confusion on whether Wright was ever counsel of record. In fact, lawyer Ghislain Boubonnais was counsel of record at the time. An application was updated to make Douglas Baum the counsel of record. Cornwall Newswatch was not privy to these proceedings at the time.

CORNWALL – Two developments have further delayed proceedings for a Rockland man accused in a violent home invasion in Cornwall in May 2018.

Christopher Beaulieu, 44, was to be sentenced Friday (June 7) in relation to the violent home invasion on Guy Street where the victim was beaten with weapons inside his home.

Beaulieu is facing a number of charges including assault with a weapon and forcible confinement.

But a pre-sentence report, ordered in August, was never completed because the accused suggested last month he wanted to change his plea to not guilty. As well, Beaulieu’s lawyer, John Wright of Addelman Baum Gilbert in Ottawa, has been on a long term unexplained absence from his firm and the file has been left to a new lawyer.

Crown attorney Michael Purcell said the prosecution is “very concerned” with the “absence of notice” or “any communication” from Wright about the status of the case. Purcell “strongly opposed” a delay because of a “lack of diligence” from the accused and “there has been not been any communication whatsoever” from the defence what Beaulieu planned to do Friday. “This is a very serious matter in which the victim suffered a significant injury.”

Purcell added that it had been 10 months since Beaulieu entered a guilty plea. Purcell added that Beaulieu had “other outstanding matters” with the court and the Crown agreed to adjourn the matter last fall because it felt Beaulieu could benefit from dealing with all the crimes in one sentence.

Defence lawyer Mash Frouhar indicated that John Wright’s “last day was May 28. He is employed by our firm but not for the summer.” When pressed by the judge for an explanation, Frouhar said Wright had “personal endeavours that he has to deal with” during the summer.

“Where is he? Today? He has a court obligation before me today,” Judge Diane Lahaie retorted. “I’m talking about his obligations. He is counsel of record representing Mr. Beaulieu, where is he? I saw Mr. Wright last Thursday, is he ill?”

While the court took a break, Frouhar wrote a letter of explanation, which was sealed by a judge’s order because Frouhar didn’t feel comfortable airing the situation in public.

While not divulging its contents, Judge Diane Lahaie said she did not accept the explanation for Wright’s absence and “breach of obligations” to his client. “The situation revealed therein is unacceptable. Mr. Wright is in breach of his obligations as counsel of record to be here today for Mr. Beaulieu.”

The sentencing hearing will be heard again on June 20 where the judge will hear an application to strike a plea or remove Wright as counsel of record or both.