Court dismisses rowing coach theft appeal

Ryan Ross
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Canada Games rowing coach Cynthia Michelle Burton leaving court in a Guardian file photo

A former Canada Games rowing coach who stole more than $8,000 from the team will be going to jail after losing appeals for her conviction and sentence.

A panel of three judges dismissed Cynthia Michelle Burton's appeals of the guilty verdict and four-month jail sentence for theft and fraud after she took money from the team to pay her living expenses.

In the unanimous decision released Thursday, Justice Michele Murphy wrote the appeal court found the convictions were reasonable and trial judge Justice Ben Taylor didn't err in law in failing to consider some of Burton's evidence.

Murphy also said the appeal judges didn't consider four months in jail, 18 months of probation and $4,000 in restitution to be inconsistent with the principles of sentencing.

In the decision, Murphy wrote the appeal could be decided on whether the trial judge delivered an unreasonable verdict, whether he erred in finding the Crown witnesses were credible and whether he made an error in law in not considering some of Burton's evidence.

The appeal could also be decided on whether the Crown proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt and whether Taylor erred in sentencing Burton to jail time instead of giving her a conditional sentence, Murphy said.

In the decision, Murphy said Taylor based his verdict on several factors, including Burton's admission she took money directly from the team, she sold a boat the team bought and used money from the sale for her personal use.

Taylor also considered evidence Burton deposited cheques from the rowing team into her personal account and there was no evidence of an honorarium agreement between her and the team, Murphy said.

The appeal decision also said Burton seemed to put a lot of stock in saying her work was always supervised, but Murphy said it didn't give any credence to her case.

"Supervision would not give one a license to steal," Murphy said.

In her appeal, Burton raised five issues she said the judge didn't consider or erred on when he dealt with the credibility of Crown witnesses.

Those included dates Crown witnesses had wrong and Burton's argument she didn't provide receipts because she lost them after moving several times.

Taylor also questioned why the amounts Burton said she took as honorariums weren't the same every year, to which she responded there was one year in which she had a greater need to help pay her living expenses.

Murphy said Taylor may have ignored some of Burton's evidence, but it didn't help her provide a defence against fraud or theft.

Taylor gave proper consideration to the evidence and errors Buron alleged didn't cast any doubt on the verdict, Murphy said.

In her notice of appeal, Burton argued an absolute discharge was the only acceptable sentence and during the hearing she said a conditional sentence would be appropriate.

Murphy said Taylor considered and gave sufficient weight to all the relevant factors and didn't consider any irrelevant factors.

Taylor gave careful consideration to whether a conditional sentence was consistent with the principles of sentencing and he thought jail time was necessary, Murphy said.

Murphy also said Taylor expressed concerns a conditional sentence wouldn't meet the fundamental principles of sentencing because Burton maintained her innocence despite her conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Taylor found Burton wasn't just unrepentant, but she also accused others of criminal behaviour that led to her conviction, Murphy said.

The appeal judges dismissed the conviction and sentence appeals.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Organizations: Burton's, Canada Games

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  • your going to jail
    July 05, 2012 - 12:49

    After exhausting all wasteful use of court time, go to jail and repent baby.