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Livent Inc. co-founder Garth Drabinsky deserves a reduced sentence in his fraud case because of his physical disability from a childhood case of polio, his lawyer told the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Michael Lacy, who is part of Mr. Drabinsky's legal team at his appeal hearing in Toronto, said Mr. Drabinsky's seven-year sentence in 2009 placed too much emphasis on sending a message of deterrence to the business community in Canada, and did not consider the "unique" circumstances of the case, including the fact the two men did not profit directly from the fraud.

"This is not your average fraud case," Mr. Lacy said.

Mr. Drabinsky and Livent co-founder Myron Gottlieb are appealing their convictions on two counts of fraud and one count of forgery, and are also appealing the length of their sentences in the case.

Madam Justice Mary Lou Benotto of the Ontario Superior Court sentenced Mr. Drabinsky to seven years in prison and Mr. Gottlieb to six years after ruling the men systematically misstated the financial results of Livent between 1993 and 1998. Both men have been free on bail while awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

The three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal reserved its decision at the end of the hearing Wednesday and did not indicate when it may issue a ruling in the appeal.

Mr. Lacy told the appeal court that studies show long sentences do not deter others in white-collar fraud cases, and said the Livent case was not a fraud in which the accused stole money for their own enrichment.

However, Mr. Justice David Doherty of the Ontario Court of Appeal said few corporate fraud cases are successfully prosecuted because they require so much time and energy, and he questioned why the court should not impose heavy sentences on those who are caught in order to discourage others.

"The effect of cheating in the public marketplace such as they were convicted of is significant," Judge Doherty said. "It profoundly affects the confidence people have in the commercial marketplace. It affects the way people look at how wealth is generated in our community."

Mr. Drabinsky walks with a serious limp because of paralysis in one leg from a case of childhood polio, the court was told. He requires a special mattress and medication for his pain, according to excerpts from a doctor's letter read to the court.

However, Crown attorney Amanda Rubaszek said the trial judge took Mr. Drabinsky's condition into account when she opted for a seven-year jail term rather than the eight to 10 years recommended by the Crown. Ms. Rubaszek added that the Correctional Service of Canada is required to accommodate prisoners' health problems and is equipped to do so.

Lawyer Brian Greenspan, who represents Mr. Gottlieb, said his client is also seeking a reduced jail term, and has suffered significantly from the crime. He has lost his wealth and his house, and has been unable to work, the lawyer said.

Mr. Greenspan said if Mr. Drabinsky's sentence is reduced for medical reasons, Mr. Gottlieb's should be similarly adjusted to maintain the difference in sentencing intended by the trial judge.