MONTREAL - A man whose online fantasy world so overtook his life that he armed himself with high-powered weapons because he thought elves were stalking him was shown mercy Thursday by a court.
David Abitbol was handed the minimum possible jail sentence with a string of weekends in prison, following a guilty plea to charges involving firearms, death threats and child porn.
His lawyer pointed to a tragic shooting that occurred on the same Dec. 6 date, 23 years ago, and said his client did not pose a similar threat.
"David Abitbol is not the Marc Lepine we believed him to be the day after his arrest," lawyer Charles Benmouyal told the court, referring to the Polytechnique mass murderer of 1989.
Rather, the portrait that emerged in court of the 30-year-old was of an immature man who lived an isolated life in his parents' basement, where he spent an inordinate amount of time playing video games online. Expert reports said he was not a threat to society or a sexual deviant.
It was a far cry from the original fear of authorities.
The provincial police's cyber-surveillance squad swooped in on Abitbol after someone with the online moniker "David Darkiller" made a number of online threats and posed for pictures with guns.
The postings touched a nerve in a city that has seen mass-shootings over the years — including the Polytechnique and at Dawson College. Before that 2006 Dawson shooting, gunman Kimveer Gill also built up a heavy online profile where he referred to himself as the "Angel of Death."
But Abitbol's lawyer said the parallels end there.
"At first when he was arrested, because of the words that (Abitbol) uttered on the net and the guns that he owned, it was justified (that authorities saw) a certain threat," Benmouyal said outside the courtroom.
Abitbol pleaded guilty last week to charges involving firearms, making online death threats and possessing child pornography. He received a sentence of 90 days over several dozen weekends from Quebec court Judge Louise Villemure.
Villemure said the crimes were serious but she agreed with the sentence recommended jointly by the defense and prosecution, citing Abitbol's ability to get his life back in order.
He's in school learning a trade and working a full-time job — prompting the court to stretch the jail sentence out, over weekends. Abitbol will also have to complete 240 hours of community service and will be on probation for three years.
In 2010, investigators seized weapons and ammunition at Abitbol's home. Police later found child pornography on his computer and also charged him with producing it. He had downloaded images of minors and written stories, with a co-author, deemed child pornography.
He told the court during his bail hearing that he feared he was being stalked by elves.
Crown prosecutor Steeve Lariviere said police were right to take urgent measures at the time of his arrest in 2010.
"The measures that were taken at first by the police officers — who did not have the benefit of the reports that we have today — were needed to be done," Lariviere said.
Looking at the case two years later, he says, it appears "the accused is immature but he presents no danger to society."
Abitbol underwent psychological and psychiatric therapy and it was determined he didn't require followup. A probation officer will keep an eye on him for now.
The court agreed that Abitbol had conjured up an imaginary reality. His lawyer said Abitbol, who was adopted as a child, had "certain limitations."
His online reality was a dark place. Abitbol would view images of corpses and extreme violence that were readily available online.
The weapons he owned were all legally registered and he was the member of a gun club.
"At some point there was some excess and the nature of the accusations are a clear description of that excess," Benmouyal said.
He expressed confidence that if his client keeps busy and follows his treatment and conditions, he won't be back before a judge. He must stay away from minors, avoid weapons, and meet with a probation officer.
"Mr. Abitbol, under the circumstances, is not a person that should be feared but who should be followed to make sure he's on the right path."