Sentencing for former Fond Du Lac chief convicted of fraud on hold pending statement from chief and council

What was supposed to be the release of a sentencing decision became a debate over adjourning to introduce one more victim impact statement in Prince Albert Court of Queen’s Bench Friday.

Sentencing submissions in the case of former Fond Du Lac Chief Napoleon Mercredi were made back in September. The Crown had asked for three and a half years in prison, while the defence had requested no more than two years in a provincial jail and restitution of $120,000 to be paid over ten years.

The Crown sought restitution of $260,000.

Mercredi was found guilty earlier this year of defrauding the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation of close to $290,000. The charges date back to when he was chief from 2009 to 2011.

According to MBC Radio, Defence lawyer Garth Bendig argued Mercredi was only utilizing a system that was put in place long before his tenure and there were no controls on this line of credit that could be accessed by Prince Albert Grand Council chiefs.

He characterized what Mercredi did as more of a “lack of understanding” than part of any sophisticated scheme.

The decision on Mercredi’s sentence was set to be handed down Friday. Instead, though, Bendig called for an adjournment to allow for a victim impact statement from Fond Du Lac Chief and Council to be read into court.

Typically, victim impact statements are handled earlier on in the sentencing process and are typically introduced by the Crown.

After some debate, Justice Meschisnick agreed to the adjournment, over objections of the Crown. Crown counsel said the case has drawn on long enough and should be resolved as soon as possible.

“The victim of a crime like this should have something material to say,” Meschisnick said.

He provided chief and council with a short window of just two weeks to pass a band resolution authorizing both the victim impact statement and the submissions it contains. If it’s not ready by Oct. 23, Meschisnick will likely proceed with sentencing. If it is presented before the court by Oct. 23, Meschisnick will either proceed with sentencing or adjourn to consider the new information.

Bendig said the request for an adjournment came after Fond Du Lac Chief Louie Mercredi — Napoleon’s brother — reached out to him and said he wanted to make some submissions based on restitution.

Bendig acknowledged the Mercredi’s are brothers but said Louie “has the support of council, which he’s not related to.

“It’s a small community.”

Fond Du Lac’s council believes it owes outstanding money to Napoleon Mercredi. Bendig said his client is looking to offset the restitution owed with the outstanding amount owed to him.

“It was a strange set of circumstances that brings Napoleon Mercredi to this court, in accessing a line of credit made available to him without any parameters, without any restrictions,” Bendig said.

“Other first nations have spent that line of credit. It was a lack of documentation on the spending I think is the most challenging part of this.”