Andersen gets 15 months

Rob Antle
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Judge says sentence fair, but acknowledges public outrage

The cinching of handcuffs around Wally Andersen's wrists marked the end of his long fall from the political heights of the Big Land to a term of incarceration in the big house.

Andersen was sentenced to 15 months in jail for forgery Friday morning after admitting his role in the House of Assembly spending scandal.

Former MHA Wally Andersen is led out of Supreme Court in handcuffs Friday after he received a 15-month jail sentence for forgery. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The cinching of handcuffs around Wally Andersen's wrists marked the end of his long fall from the political heights of the Big Land to a term of incarceration in the big house.

Andersen was sentenced to 15 months in jail for forgery Friday morning after admitting his role in the House of Assembly spending scandal.

He will also serve a nine-month sentence for breach of trust, to run at the same time.

Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Wayne Dymond acknowledged the sentence may not mollify the taxpayers Andersen defrauded, but said it is fair.

"This sentence will not satisfy the public; however, I believe the sentence is a reasonable balance for deterrence of you and like-minded government officials," Dymond said in his decision.

"Yet, it is not so crushing that it will prevent you from rehabilitating yourself and allowing yourself to become a productive member of the public, in much the same way you were when you were an MHA for Labrador."

Prisoners are eligible to apply for parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

If that happens, Andersen could be out on the streets before Christmas.

Former Tory cabinet minister Ed Byrne, for example, served just four months of his sentence of two years less a day. Byrne was recently released.

The Crown had sought a term of between 18 months and two years less a day for Andersen.

The defence submitted that a sentence in the range of six to nine months was more appropriate.

Defence lawyer Bern Coffey said he has not been directed to prepare any appeal.

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle said the sentence was well within the sentencing range and seems fair, given the circumstances.

"We can't quibble with this decision," Knickle told reporters outside court. "He's an experienced judge. He looked at the aggravating and mitigating factors. The range, as has been stated before, is very wide. So we don't take issue with a 15-month sentence."

Knickle also acknowledged Dymond's comments about the potential lack of public satisfaction with the sentence.

"My experience in the justice system is that sentences are often not in accordance with what the public thinks they ought to be," the Crown lawyer noted. "But they are in accordance with what the law has decided they should be."

Andersen served as Liberal MHA for Torngat Mountains in northern Labrador from 1996 to 2007. He admitted to forging dozens of documents over an eight-year period that spanned most of his time in politics.

The forgeries, which generated payments from his taxpayer-funded constituency allowance, netted him $59,000.

Andersen faked documents relating to a snowmobile he bought and charged to taxpayers, even though he had been denied permission to do so.

He also filed claims - and was paid - for 69 invoices for translation services that turned out to be fictitious.

He charged rent for a non-existent office, transportation costs for non-existent boat trips and consulting fees for a non-existent housing study.

Andersen also admitted to receiving $30,000 in excess discretionary payments during a two-year period. Those payments were tax- and receipt-free.

All told, according to the agreed statement of facts filed with the court, Andersen got more than $89,000 in cash to which he was not entitled.

Dymond ordered him to pay restitution upon his release from jail.

In court earlier this week, Andersen invoked the Robin Hood defence - that he did not personally benefit from the forgeries, but his needy constituents did instead.

The Crown disagreed, saying those assertions were not part of the statement of agreed facts.

In deciding on a sentence, Dymond said he weighed a number of mitigating and aggravating factors.

The mitigating factors included Andersen's guilty plea, his status as a first-time offender, the former MHA's remorse and the fact that some of the cash may have been redirected to Andersen's district and his constituents.

The aggravating factors included Andersen's awareness of spending limits, the numerous forgeries, his position of public trust and time as a cabinet minister.

Dymond said Andersen's crimes were not as serious as those committed by Byrne.

Byrne was convicted of bribery, a "more serious offence," according to Dymond.

Andersen is the second former MHA to be sentenced for his role in the House spending scandal. Byrne, who defrauded taxpayers of more than $100,000, was the first.

Reports by the auditor general in 2006 outlined questionable House spending, and sparked a series of probes by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Police investigations resulted in an array of charges.

A third politician, former New Democrat Randy Collins, pleaded guilty to corruption charges last month, and will be sentenced later in the year.

Meanwhile, the trial of a fourth implicated MHA - longtime Liberal member and cabinet minister Jim Walsh - resumes in November.

And former House bureaucrat Bill Murray is scheduled to be back in court in December. Murray was appointed a Legal Aid lawyer this week, after his previous attorney withdrew from his case.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Northern Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Bones
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Which is more serious ? Stealing from a single individual ? Or stealing from everybody ? I want to know because stealing from everybody means you only serve 1/6 of your sentence, and if stealing from just one person is less serious, then would one serve perhaps 1/8 or 1/10 of your sentence ? If there is a judge reading this, can you please have the decency and transparency to publish this so that we all know what to expect ?

  • up4discussion
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Two things I have to mention...First, I did not ever vote for any of these members who have been charged...Secondly, they now have the stigma of having a criminal record (indicatable offences I believe). That is something I would never want (including summary convictions)!!!

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I say Andersen should be thankful he got off so easy,it will be interesting to see how time he serves, Ed Byrne was sentenced to 2 years but only served 4 months. I have a question, is there two laws in NL, one for the politicians who stole from the public purse and one for the general public? Born and raised in Lions Den on Fogo Island.

  • Morally
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    The 15 months is ridiculous. It is ridiculous because he still doesn't think he has done anything wrong ethically or morally. He plead guilty meaning he accepts legal liability or at least understands he cannot be acquitted.

    That is the REAL issue, these guys (Walsh too) still don't get it. They were shady characters who thought the people of the province and the House of Assembly along with all the monies available were there to serve Anderson & Walsh as opposed to them serving the people of NL & LB.

    For that, he deserves much longer than 15 months.

  • Donny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    You know, a lot of newfies in Labrador would vote this goof in again in a heartbeat! Pathetic eh?

  • Truth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    These guys think they are kings, lived like them, and robbed us blind like them. I used to work up there and saw how greedy and piggy these fatcats were, and still are. They think they are a class onto themselves, better than the peasants. And, sadly, two tiers of justice exist: one for them where they get off easy, and one for the rest of us who often have the book thrown at us.

    I do enjoy the public shaming of these jerks, though, the many pictures of Andersen in court and in cuffs, and the same with Ed Byrne. Keep shaming them!!! The courts don't.

  • Truth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Hope you enjoyed your, oops, our snowmobile!!!

  • George Smith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Trying to resemble a modern day Robin Hood, Wally Andersen says that he gave the money to needy people in his district. Maybe he did, but it was not his money to give.

    We all see needy people around us everyday, but we cannot take our neighbors property and give to them. That's not the way things work. It is stealing regardless of our intentions or what we do with it.

    This idea of sentences running concurrently and out in one-sixth needs to be largely addressed, for these and all other types of crimes and criminals.

    It does not provide an adequate deterrence

  • Tim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    You got that right BW!
    Ol' Wally b'y will be sipping the egg nog laughing his !*$ off as he sees Santa coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve

  • B.W.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    If anything like that career criminal Ed Byrne who got out in one sixth of his term, one sixth of 15 months is 2.5 months. Just in time for Christmas. How convenient. Gee, did the judge know this ?

    A sentence should be a sentence should be a sentence.

    When I buy something at the store with a price of $600. Can I expect to pay $100 at the checkout ?

    These facade sentences should be made illegal themselves. They send false messages to the public. A trick in other words, in hopes of satisfying the public. Except that in the internet age, it doesn't work any longer. You can't fool us anymore. We know EXACTLY what is happening when, where and why.

    STOP THIS SUBVERSIVE PRACTICE

  • Bones
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Which is more serious ? Stealing from a single individual ? Or stealing from everybody ? I want to know because stealing from everybody means you only serve 1/6 of your sentence, and if stealing from just one person is less serious, then would one serve perhaps 1/8 or 1/10 of your sentence ? If there is a judge reading this, can you please have the decency and transparency to publish this so that we all know what to expect ?

  • up4discussion
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Two things I have to mention...First, I did not ever vote for any of these members who have been charged...Secondly, they now have the stigma of having a criminal record (indicatable offences I believe). That is something I would never want (including summary convictions)!!!

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I say Andersen should be thankful he got off so easy,it will be interesting to see how time he serves, Ed Byrne was sentenced to 2 years but only served 4 months. I have a question, is there two laws in NL, one for the politicians who stole from the public purse and one for the general public? Born and raised in Lions Den on Fogo Island.

  • Morally
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    The 15 months is ridiculous. It is ridiculous because he still doesn't think he has done anything wrong ethically or morally. He plead guilty meaning he accepts legal liability or at least understands he cannot be acquitted.

    That is the REAL issue, these guys (Walsh too) still don't get it. They were shady characters who thought the people of the province and the House of Assembly along with all the monies available were there to serve Anderson & Walsh as opposed to them serving the people of NL & LB.

    For that, he deserves much longer than 15 months.

  • Donny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    You know, a lot of newfies in Labrador would vote this goof in again in a heartbeat! Pathetic eh?

  • Truth
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    These guys think they are kings, lived like them, and robbed us blind like them. I used to work up there and saw how greedy and piggy these fatcats were, and still are. They think they are a class onto themselves, better than the peasants. And, sadly, two tiers of justice exist: one for them where they get off easy, and one for the rest of us who often have the book thrown at us.

    I do enjoy the public shaming of these jerks, though, the many pictures of Andersen in court and in cuffs, and the same with Ed Byrne. Keep shaming them!!! The courts don't.

  • Truth
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Hope you enjoyed your, oops, our snowmobile!!!

  • George Smith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Trying to resemble a modern day Robin Hood, Wally Andersen says that he gave the money to needy people in his district. Maybe he did, but it was not his money to give.

    We all see needy people around us everyday, but we cannot take our neighbors property and give to them. That's not the way things work. It is stealing regardless of our intentions or what we do with it.

    This idea of sentences running concurrently and out in one-sixth needs to be largely addressed, for these and all other types of crimes and criminals.

    It does not provide an adequate deterrence

  • Tim
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    You got that right BW!
    Ol' Wally b'y will be sipping the egg nog laughing his !*$ off as he sees Santa coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve

  • B.W.
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    If anything like that career criminal Ed Byrne who got out in one sixth of his term, one sixth of 15 months is 2.5 months. Just in time for Christmas. How convenient. Gee, did the judge know this ?

    A sentence should be a sentence should be a sentence.

    When I buy something at the store with a price of $600. Can I expect to pay $100 at the checkout ?

    These facade sentences should be made illegal themselves. They send false messages to the public. A trick in other words, in hopes of satisfying the public. Except that in the internet age, it doesn't work any longer. You can't fool us anymore. We know EXACTLY what is happening when, where and why.

    STOP THIS SUBVERSIVE PRACTICE