Crown seeks maximum sentence for pilot who targeted 'spinal column' of Hydro Quebec
ST-JEROME, Que. — Normand Dube is a pilot, an inventor and, as described in a court decision, a “particularly ingenious man.” But a Crown prosecutor argued Wednesday that Dube deserves the maximum sentence for using that intellect in 2014 to create havoc, nearly crippling Hydro-Quebec's power grid in an act of sabotage.
Prosecutor Steve Baribeau called for an exemplary sentence for the man described in local media as a “pilot to the stars” for his past life transporting well-known Quebec entertainers.
He said he wants Dube, 56, to serve 10 years for what he described as an unprecedented attack.
“The lines targeted in those attacks were the jugular and the spinal column of the Hydro-Quebec hydroelectric network,” Baribeau told the court. “It's rare that a prosecutor will ask for a maximum sentence, but in this case, it's necessary because of the unique character of this case and the high level of moral culpability.”
Dube was found guilty in September on three counts of mischief after he used a small plane to shut down transmission lines serving a wide swath of southwestern Quebec.
The exact method used to create a short-circuit in the Dec. 4, 2014 attack cannot be reported under a publication ban imposed in the interest of national security.
Much of the trial took place with the public barred, and the decision finding Dube guilty in September is partially redacted.
At trial, Dube denied the allegations and argued he could not have mounted the attacks.
But the Crown said Dube carried a grudge against Hydro-Quebec stemming from a dispute over work done by the utility on land he owned in Saint-Anne-des-Plaines. Dube also blamed the utility for his tax problems, Baribeau said.
The prosecutor told Quebec court Judge Paul Chevalier that no previous mischief case comes close to Dube's “lone wolf” attack, which struck at the heart of institutions and affected ordinary Quebecers.
“What could be worse to destabilize a society than to cut electricity on such a large scale?” Baribeau asked.
“In one strike, he put into danger the most vulnerable members of society, all while compromising the smooth running of the province's economy.”
Some 188,000 people were left without power during two winter days as a result of the attack. Institutions including McGill University's health network were also affected. Some companies had to reduce power consumption, and Hydro-Quebec temporarily cut its exports.
A former Hydro-Quebec executive testified the outage cost the public utility $28.6 million — a cost assumed by all Quebec taxpayers.
Baribeau said the judge's decision would be “historic” and asked him to send a clear message to dissuade anyone thinking of carrying out similar crimes.
Dube's trial heard that despite his lack of post-secondary education, he was a skilled inventor. He designed on his own a single-engine airplane known as the Aerocruiser, of which he sold dozens. He also created solar energy systems and invented a machine to eliminate bugs from greenhouses growing tomatoes.
Baribeau said the crime against Hydro-Quebec suggests a high degree of planning and demonstrates how Dube's superior intellect made him all the more dangerous. “You have someone before you who is extremely determined,” he said.
But defence lawyer Maxime Chevalier said there was a lack of evidence showing Dube intended to shut down the network.
He argued a sentence of three years was more appropriate and suggested even a sentence of less than two years, along with three years probation, would be adequate.
Earlier Wednesday, a Terrebonne police officer detailed the contents of computers seized from Dube's home, revealing that the grudge against Hydro-Quebec was not his only one.
Marc Lalonde told the court police found information on some 29 people — audio recordings, personal information and photos. The list included businessmen, customs officials and city workers with whom Dube had disputes.
But Chevalier said that despite the fact Dube kept files on all of these individuals, nothing related to Hydro-Quebec was found on the computers.
He told the court his client has already suffered as a result of a period of detention, lost business and wages and a civil suit launched by the utility to recoup the cost of the blackout.
The Crown has asked the court to order the confiscation of the plane Dube used in the attack.
The judge said he will render a sentence Dec. 10.
— Sidhartha Banerjee
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