BANGOR, Maine — The bail hearing for a Canadian man charged with smuggling more than a ton of marijuana across the border was continued Wednesday so U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services can determine if his sister-in-law’s home in Frenchville is a suitable place for him to stay while his case is pending.
At the same court hearing in U.S. District Court, Andre Picard, 49, of Riceville, New Brunswick, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.
His bail hearing is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Friday, April 30.
Picard was arrested April 1 in Madawaska. Details about his arrest were not outlined in documents filed earlier this month in federal court. He is charged with smuggling 2,200 pounds of marijuana into Maine and distributing it as far south as North Carolina between September 2006 and March 2007.
He allegedly brought the marijuana across the border himself in a hidden compartment in his tractor-trailer. At least four people, identified in court documents only as cooperating defendants and witnesses, told police they had taken the marijuana out of state for Picard.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has asked that Picard be held without bail because of the likelihood that he would flee to Canada if released and because of the seriousness of the charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Nichols told U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk on Wednesday that after his arrest, Picard waived his Miranda rights and confessed to investigators. Picard’s reported confession was not included in court documents.
Defense attorney Kevin Jesse McCants of Washington, D.C., told the judge his client’s wife’s sister and her husband — Pearl and Dale Boucher of Frenchville — were willing to put up the equity in their home as bail. Both said they would allow Picard to live with them under strict conditions, including electronic monitoring.
Picard’s two teenage daughters also attended the hearing but were not identified by name.
The defendant, according to Spencer Christie of U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services, has no criminal record in Canada or the U.S. Christie testified he was not aware until shortly before Wednesday’s hearing that Picard had relatives living in Maine who could act as third-party custodians.
Pearl Boucher testified that her sister Peggy Picard is married to the defendant and that she has known him for 30 years. The Frenchville woman said that there is “plenty of room” for her brother-in-law at her home. She also said that she is disabled and does not work outside the home.
“He loves everybody,” Pearl Boucher said when asked to describe Picard. “He’s a good man. He’s a good provider.”
Dale Boucher, an employee of Fraser Papers in Madawaska, said he would put his home up as bail because he believed his brother-in-law is innocent. When asked what he knew about the evidence against Picard, Dale Boucher said, “I only know what I read in the paper, and they lie all the time.”
“Hypothetically, if I told you he was guilty,” McCants asked his client’s brother-in-law, “would you still let him live at your home?”
“No,” Dale Boucher answered.
After the hearing, federal marshals allowed the defendant to hold his sobbing daughters in his arms before being handcuffed and returned to the Penobscot County Jail.
McCants said after the hearing that the Picard family found him on the Internet. The Washington, D.C., attorney handled a case 3½ years ago in federal court in Baltimore that received a great deal of press coverage in Canada. He represented Olympic gold medalist Myriam Beddard, who was charged with violating a child custody order by bringing her 12-year-old daughter to the U.S.
If convicted of the charges, Picard faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison. He also could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $4 million and to forfeit property and assets obtained with money earned from drug smuggling.