Judge denies bail for Canadian in pot case

Posted May 07, 2010, at 8:20 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge Thursday ordered a Canadian man charged with smuggling more than a ton of marijuana across the border to be held without bail pending the outcome of his case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk found that Andre Picard, 49, of Riceville, New Brunswick, did not pose a danger to the public but was a flight risk. Kravchuk pointed out that the Frenchville home Picard had proposed to live in while on bail is just 150 yards from the Canadian border.

Last month, Picard pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Picard was arrested April 1 in Madawaska. Details about his arrest were not outlined in documents filed 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.

Picard’s defense attorney Kevin Jesse McCants of Washington, D.C., told the judge at an earlier hearing that 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.

Kravchuk found that because cell phone reception necessary for the electronic monitoring was erratic in Frenchville, it might be impossible for U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services to verify Picard’s whereabouts until after he had crossed the border.

The fact that Picard has no criminal record weighed in his favor, the judge wrote, but because his immediate family, job and personal property were in Canada, the risk of flight could not be “satisfactorily mitigated.”

McCants said last month 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.

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