Request for withdrawal of guilty plea | The judge recuses himself in the case of three GHB traffickers

Another judge will hear the request to withdraw the guilty pleas of three managers of a huge GHB production network. Criticized by the defense, Judge François Landry recused himself on Tuesday to avoid “obvious discomfort”.

The twists and turns have multiplied in this affair in recent weeks. The three drug traffickers from the northern crown, Sébastien Turcotte, Éric Matte and Jean-Philippe Robitaille, were to begin their sentence of five to seven years of imprisonment at the end of January, after admitting their guilt.

However, two weeks ago, the three men still at large instead fired their lawyers and requested that their guilty plea be withdrawn, citing a case of disclosure of evidence. As the three traffickers had repudiated the agreement negotiated by their lawyers, Judge François Landry decided to withdraw their bail and detain them until further notice.

This decision by Judge Landry aroused the ire of the traffickers’ new lawyers. It is for this reason that they demanded on Tuesday the recusal of Judge Landry. Note that it is the judge himself targeted by such a request who determines whether it is necessary to exclude oneself from a case.

At the same time, Crown prosecutor Me Steven Baribeau wanted to have the defense’s request to withdraw the plea rejected out of hand.

However, Judge Landry surprised everyone on Tuesday by deciding to recuse himself for other reasons. According to him, he cannot hear the motion to withdraw the plea since he participated in the negotiations between the lawyers as a facilitator judge.

“The Court considers that a well-informed and reasonable person could think of a potential conflict situation. No appearance of impartiality, but obvious discomfort for the Court called upon to consider a plea request in which it took part in the negotiations. Consequently, the Court considers that he must recuse himself from the accused’s case,” explained Judge Landry.

Tit for tat, defense lawyer Me Samuel Cozak then argued that all decisions made by the judge were “overturned”, including the guilty pleas of the offenders.

“This is not the opinion of the Court. The plea was recorded. This is simply for the removal stage. The judge will decide on the validity. The plea will remain there,” ruled Judge Landry.

Sébastien Turcotte, 44 years old, Éric Matte, 42 years old, and Jean-Philippe Robitaille, 45 years old, dealt very large quantities of GHB, better known as the “date rape drug”. Their production laboratory in Terrebonne had substantial production capacity.

According to evidence presented at the bail inquest, the men could have produced between 14 and 43 million doses of GHB with the quantity of chemicals purchased during the police investigation. Judge Sophie Lavergne also recalled that GHB was causing “havoc in society”.

Me Mathieu Giroux and Me Noémie Ayotte are the other defense lawyers.


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