Former NHL player Mike Danton was granted full parole Friday after telling the National Parole Board the target of his murder-for-hire plot was his father, and not his controversial and oft-scrutinized former agent, David Frost.
As conditions of his release, Danton is to have no direct or indirect contact with his father, Steve Jefferson, and no face-to-face contact with Frost, unless pre-approved by his parole officer.
Danton said he hopes to return to playing hockey.
"Given the opportunity I know I'll be able to play somewhere, at some level," he said. Yet Danton admitted the parole board was correct in that it would be impossible to play in the NHL if he can't leave the country while on parole.
Danton, sporting a shaved head and crisp collared shirt, said he wants to get a post-secondary degree, noting he's interested in psychology, and that he loves teaching kids.
A native of Brampton, Ont., Danton pleaded guilty in 2004 in the United States in the failed plot that prosecutors alleged targeted Frost, his former junior coach and NHL agent.
But at Friday's hearing, Danton said the intended target was his father, not Frost.
While American authorities had alleged Frost was the target, Danton said Frost "turned out to be" the victim, but he was not the "intended victim."
The confusing distinction was clarified after a somewhat combative discussion with board member Michael Crowley at the hearing, which was otherwise largely congenial.
Danton, who spent parts of three seasons playing for the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils, explained that after canvassing a St. Louis club he frequented, trying to recruit a hit man, he called a girl he had been dating and she put him in touch with someone.
"The agreement was there would be $10,000 (U.S.) paid out to have the person I believed was coming to kill me taken care of," Danton said.
He said paranoia had gripped him, which he blamed partly on the use of stimulants and sleeping pills, and he believed someone was going to his apartment to murder him.
"Why on Earth would you believe that?" Crowley asked. "That's like talking about the bogeyman."
"Over the years there were conversations that pointed to someone who would have interest in ending my life and ending (Frost's) life," Danton said, adding he received "verbal confirmation" from a family member.
He told the hit man to kill someone who would be in his apartment over two days, and Crowley noted Frost was there at the time. But Danton said Frost wasn't the person he believed was coming to kill him.
"It's clear that you thought it was your father who would do you harm," Crowley said.
"Right," Danton replied.
The target of his plot was not contained in the agreed facts when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and Friday was the first time Danton has publicly said it was his dad.
The revelation illustrates the bizarre saga of Mike Danton, his father and Frost.
Danton said his childhood was dysfunctional and the relationship between him and his parents, Steve and Sue Jefferson, became so strained that he changed his last name from Jefferson, hasn't talked to his father since he was about 15 and admitted to tearing up and sending back the letters they wrote to him in prison.
"I refer to biological family as Steve and Sue," Danton said. "I don't think of them as family."
He alleged Steve Jefferson was physically abusive and that Sue Jefferson did drugs. None of the allegations has been proven in court. The Jeffersons could not be reached for comment.
Danton alleged his father subjected him to repeated beatings and would force him to stay home from school if marks or bruises were too apparent, or was told to blame them on hockey injuries. He claimed his father beat up his mother too, but that she had problems of her own.
Speaking about his mother, Danton said he would come home from school in the afternoons and the house would reek of marijuana, then his mom would stay up at night, vacuuming the whole house. But he also alleged a lack of hygiene in the house, saying he didn't even know how to brush his teeth until Frost and his wife took him in.
There was no affection, no bedtime stories or kisses goodnight in his house, Danton said. But he said he didn't know his family's alleged behaviour wasn't normal until he had sleepovers at friends' houses and didn't see drug paraphernalia lying around or kitchen plates thrown across the room.
Turning to Frost as a father was a "no-brainer," Danton said.
"Do you stick with someone who abuses you every chance (they) get?"
When Frost became his coach at age 11, Danton clung to him as a role model, someone to trust. He said the way Frost has been portrayed in court testimony and in the media - as a violent and controlling, all-encompassing presence in his players' lives - is a big misconception.
Frost was acquitted last year of four counts of sexual exploitation relating to his tenure as coach of the Junior A Quinte Hawks team in eastern Ontario in 1996 and 1997, a team of which Danton was a member.
In oral reasons for the decision Friday, the board said while it was a very serious offence, Danton has clearly benefited from therapy and would be a low risk.
He won't be physically released for another few days and will be under parole supervision until Jan. 21, 2011.
Danton was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in the United States and was transferred to a Kingston-area facility in March, when he reached full parole eligibility.