POLITICS

Case involving deputy premier's brother 'like a boil under the skin,' Crown says

03/11/2014 02:51 EDT | Updated 05/11/2014 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - The Crown prosecutor who handled an aquaculture infraction case in New Brunswick against the brother of the deputy premier said Tuesday he felt uncomfortable when he was asked to drop the charge.

P.J. Veniot testified at the trial of Peter Andrews, the executive director of corporate services for the province's Aquaculture Department who has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice. Andrews is accused of interfering in an aquaculture investigation in 2011 involving Donat Robichaud, the brother of deputy premier Paul Robichaud.

Veniot, who was the senior regional Crown prosecutor for northeastern New Brunswick when he approved a charge under the Aquaculture Act against Donat Robichaud in November 2011, said he was distressed by the request to withdraw the charge.

"I knew this was going to be like a boil under the skin, and at some time it was going to pop," Veniot told the judge-only trial at Fredericton provincial court.

Wilbert Sabine, the head of aquaculture enforcement in the province, testified Monday that fisheries officer Gaetan Germain proceeded with the charge despite being told by his superiors that they wanted to look at other options.

Veniot said after the charge against Donat Robichaud was laid in December 2011, he received an email from Sabine asking to speak.

Veniot said the two then spoke over the phone.

"He asked me what it would take to have the charge withdrawn," Veniot said. "My answer was probably, 'It's not going to happen.'"

Veniot said he was concerned about the possibility of having to tell a judge that the charge against Donat Robichaud was laid by mistake and it should be withdrawn.

"And we know how well that would go," Veniot said.

Crown prosecutor Mona Briere asked Veniot how the request to drop the charge made him feel.

"I didn't like it very much," he replied, adding that Sabine was polite and calm during their conversation and there was no insistence that the charge be dropped.

Sabine testified Monday he had been asked by Andrews to make the call. Andrews is expected to testify in his defence Wednesday.

Veniot said he made copies of all emails and files on the case and kept them at his home. He also received a copy of his cellphone records to show when he had the conversation with Sabine, court heard.

Veniot said he knew Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp had informed Paul Robichaud in November 2011 of the possibility that a charge against Donat Robichaud could be laid.

Defence lawyer Patrick Hurley asked Veniot if he assumed that the deputy premier had given instruction not to proceed with the charge.

"It is difficult to look at that any other way," Veniot replied.

Hurley said the court previously heard that Olscamp told Paul Robichaud of the decision to take another course of action other than laying a charge.

"That's another interpretation," Veniot said.

Veniot said after the call from Sabine he never heard from anyone else seeking to have the charge dropped.

Donat Robichaud eventually pleaded guilty to practising aquaculture outside the boundary of his lease and paid a fine of $576.