The sentencing of a former senior official convicted of defrauding the Town of Churchill of $200,000 hit another delay this week — one of several snags over the past three years in a case that also saw the man found in contempt of court for allegedly forging a doctor’s note.
“This is, in my experience, one of the most unusual sentencings that I have been involved in,” Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin said Monday.
Former Churchill chief administrative officer Albert Meijering was slated to be sentenced Monday, following a series of delays granted by the courts due to health issues he’s reported since pleading guilty 32 months ago.
But Meijering didn’t show up because he was allegedly hospitalized in Winnipeg over the weekend with a “brutal infection,” Crown attorney Peter Edgett told court, relaying a message he received from one of Meijering’s friends right before the sentencing Monday morning.
Justice Martin issued an arrest warrant at Edgett’s request that will take effect upon Meijering’s release from hospital, court heard.
Edgett said he believed Meijering’s current ailments stem from a case of flesh-eating disease. He believes Meijering is in hospital but couldn’t be sure, court heard.
While serving as CAO, Meijering forged documents and defrauded the Town of Churchill of about $200,000 between May 2011 and October 2012. He resigned in October of 2012 and his replacement discovered signs of the offences, said Edgett.
On March 30, 2016, Meijering pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000, three counts of uttering forged documents and one count of breach of trust by a public official, said Edgett.
He was given a chance to repay the town of Churchill but was unable to find the money, court heard.
Delays, forged doctor’s note
Meijering’s medical condition got in the way of his being sentenced between 2016 and 2018. The courts granted a number of adjournments and delays so he could recover, court documents show.
In June of this year, Justice Martin ordered a review of Meijering’s actual medical condition after all the delays. He also ordered verification of a note Meijering previously provided to court that appeared to be signed by an infectious disease specialist concerning his medical condition.
The infectious disease expert later said he never wrote the letter, and Meijering was cited for criminal contempt of court. Meijering later admitted in court to writing the letter, Edgett said.
“You added to your woes immeasurably this spring with a forged document,” Justice Martin said at a September sentencing hearing for Meijering.
‘This has taken a long time’
At that hearing, Justice Martin granted another delay so Meijering could recover from medical issues.
At that appearance, Edgett confirmed he had received confirmation from Meijering’s infectious disease doctor that his condition had “taken a turn for the worse.”
He was nonetheless present that day.
Meijering said a bone infection spread through his right foot; he had three toes amputated and was on a course of intravenous antibiotics.
“It tunneled through the foot,” he told Justice Martin on Sept. 17.
At the time, Justice Martin granted a delay but expressed some concerns about the “inordinate amount of time” that has already gone into the sentencing.
“This has taken a long time and it has to be drawn to an end at some point,” Martin said in September. “I have been very — I think perhaps too much so — lenient in allowing time to slip by.”
‘Given the benefit of the doubt’
Meijering is representing himself. Assuming he is released from hospital, Meijering is now expected to be sentenced Friday.
Edgett is seeking a two-year sentence in relation to the fraud conviction and further jail time if he is convicted of contempt Friday.
Justice Martin said the easiest way for him to maintain control of the case was to issue the arrest warrant.
“Obviously Mr. Meijering has been given the benefit of the doubt on a number of occasions to have this matter moved forward for health issues,” Martin said on Monday.
“The only thing we really have to do at this point is get him here.”