New Brunswick trucker gets light penalty in pot case

Posted June 15, 2009, at 11:19 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A New Brunswick man caught crossing the border last year with nearly 1,000 pounds of marijuana hidden inside bags of peat moss in his tractor-trailer was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to 15 months in federal prison.

Bruno Rousselle, 35, of Tilley Road, New Brunswick, wiped tears from his eyes as his weeping wife and sobbing 11-year-old daughter told U.S. District Judge John Woodcock that he was a good person who had made a terrible mistake.

“He is a good husband and wonderful father to our two daughters,” the defendant’s wife, Joella Rousselle, age unknown, said with a French-Canadian accent. “He made a bad mistake, a bad decision. It is a mistake that will affect him and us for the rest of our lives. I assure you that he will never do anything like this again. I’m begging you, please, let him come home to us.”

Sophie Rousselle was unable to complete her thoughts and be understood in the courtroom because she was crying so hard.

“My father is a very good person. I want him to come home soon,” was all she managed to say before breaking down.

The 20 or so family members and friends gave a collective sigh of relief when Woodcock announced the sentence.

Because he has been held without bail since his arrest, Rousselle already has completed more than half of his sentence. After his release from prison, he will be turned over to immigration officials for deportation, Woodcock said. It is highly unlikely the truck driver will be permitted to re-enter the U.S., according to the judge.

Rousselle, a commercial truck driver, was arrested on Oct. 16, 2008, after he crossed the border alone at Houlton shortly after midnight. U.S. Border Patrol agents found five or six bags of what appeared to be peat moss in totes in the back of the trailer, according to court documents.

In at least one bag, they found smaller bags containing marijuana. Rousselle waived indictment and pleaded guilty in January to importing 100 kilograms or more of marijuana into the U.S.

He faced a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $2 million. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines he faced between 30 and 37 months in prison after the judge agreed to impose a sentence less than the mandatory minimum because Rousselle had told investigators all he knew about his crime.

Woodcock also granted a motion, made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, to decrease further Rousselle’s sentence. Called a 5K1.1 motion, it allows a judge to depart downward from a guideline range if the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person.

That motion was sealed and Woodcock did not reveal any specifics about the information Rousselle may have given investigators. Casey and defense attorney Joseph Pickering of Bangor declined to comment on the motion after the hearing.

Casey did say that there were no cases pending in Maine related to Rousselle’s case.

“Mr. Rousselle, this is a very light sentence in this court,” Woodcock said in imposing the sentence. “It is my belief that you have gotten the message and are in fact a good father, a good husband and a good citizen. What you did is an aberration in an otherwise lawful life.”

Pickering read a statement to the judge that Rousselle had written. In it the defendant apologized and said that he had agreed to drive drugs across the border when he and his family were experiencing difficult financial times in part because of rising gas prices.

Rousselle made two successful smuggling trips to New Bedford, Mass., between May and October 2008 and was paid $2,000 per trip, according to court documents. He was caught on the third trip.

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