If five former Toronto drug squad officers are sent to prison, they will be instant targets for cop-hating inmates, their Superior Court sentencing hearing was told Wednesday.
"These men, I would suggest, are marked men," said lawyer Earl Levy, who represents Raymond Pollard, one of the five ex-officers convicted of perjury and attempting to obstruct justice.
"Their faces have been on television, in newspapers and on the Internet for years. It wouldn't surprise me if their pictures are being circulated in prison as we speak."
Echoing the four other defence lawyers, all of whom have urged Madam Justice Gladys Pardu to spare their clients jail time, Mr. Levy said the damage to Mr. Pollard and his family from the long-running case has been catastrophic, and the stigma permanent.
However, he said: "Your Honour can remove some of that stigma by imposing a non-custodial sentence."
Mr. Pollard, 48, belonged to a disgraced drug-squad unit whose misdeeds have resulted in years of expensive, up-and-down legal battles that Mr. Levy likened to an agonizing roller-coaster ride.
The team was led by John Schertzer, 54. The three other former members are Nebojsa (Ned) Maodus, 49; Joseph Miched, 53; and Constable Steven Correia, 45, who remains a member of the Toronto Police Service, suspended with pay.
All five were convicted in June of attempting to obstruct justice, which carries a maximum 10-year penalty. Mr. Maodus, Mr. Pollard and Const. Correia were also found guilty of perjury, which can bring 14 years.
The Crown has called for penitentiary terms of four years for Mr. Schertzer and three years apiece for the other four.
Judge Pardu will set a sentencing date Thursday.
All eight convictions stemmed from a single warrant-less search of a small-time heroin dealer's home in Scarborough in 1998, and the cover-up that followed. The jury acquitted the five on numerous other serious charges, including theft, assault and extortion.
On Tuesday, the court heard from lawyers acting for Mr. Schertzer and Const. Correia. On Wednesday, counsel for the other three made their submissions.
Patrick Ducharme told the court that his client, Mr. Maodus, suffers from deep depression, paranoia and "chronic" post-traumatic stress disorder, and remains in therapy.
And although Mr. Maodus has three other criminal convictions – communicating for the purpose of prostitution, uttering death threats and breach of recognizance – all those offences occurred after his arrest in the current case, so he should be sentenced as a first offender, Mr. Ducharme argued.
Jail, he said, "would serve no purpose," but rather worsen his client's fragile mental state.
Lawyer Peter Brauti, acting for Mr. Miched, said his client's life has been wrecked by the charges and conviction, and that "at times he has been treated as a human pinata."
A once-proud police officer is now a car salesman, Mr. Brauti told the court, and that new career, too, will end if he is imprisoned.
"The [legal] process has been the punishment," he said.
All five lawyers have painted similar pictures of their clients: Dedicated cops, with long lists of accomplishments and citations.
Mr. Pollard, for instance, once co-ordinated a police operation that yielded 40 pounds of high-grade heroin, worth up to $50-million.
The other common denominator has been enormous family stress, the lawyers said, and numerous letters attesting to those domestic strains were filed with the court.
The five men belonged to the Central Field Command drug squad, and the long chain of events dates back to 1997, when drug squad officers arrested two suspects and searched their homes without warrants.
The guilty verdicts in June came at the end of the defendants' second trial.
The first trial was aborted when the judge concluded the proceedings had lasted so long the accused had been denied their constitutional right to a reasonably speedy trial.
But in a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the judge's decision, saying the delays were not unreasonable in light of the complexity of the case, and most of the charges were reinstated.