MAC’S MUSINGS: Woods and Dinelle rolled the dice – and lost

Claude McIntosh

Two Cornwall residents who used enormous profits generated by a cross-border pot smuggling operation to live the good life today face the prospect of never again seeing the outside world. Instead they wear a U.S. prison jump suit and live in an ungarnished six-by-eight cell.

Mickey Woods, 45, and Gates Dinelle, 42, were handed mandatory life sentences in a Syracuse, N.Y. federal court.

That is life as in rest of your life. No chance of parole.  No get out of jail card.

In the blunt, cold words of a U.S. law enforcement official, each will take his last breath in a U.S. prison, be it 10 years or 50 years from now.

Short of the electric chair, gas chamber or the IV needle, it doesn’t get any harsher. In many cases, outside the federal system, sentences of 20 (years) to life for murder leave open the parole door.

Considering the life sentence, this isn’t a big worry for the duo but the court also ordered a $45-million (U.S.) judgment against them. You can’t pay that off on prison wages.

In Canada, throwing the proverbial book at somebody convicted of running a multi-million dollar pot smuggling operation might result in a 10-year, out-in-five sentence.

The two Cornwall men (that should read former Cornwall men) were given the opportunity to escape the shackles of mandatory life sentences. All they had to do was save the cost of a trial by pleading guilty. Incredibly, despite the preponderance of evidence stacked against them, they turned down the offer, took their chances with a jury trial and, as it turned out, threw away their lives. Bad move.

Oddly enough, any sliver of hope that someday they will be returned to Canada to serve out abbreviated sentences might ride on the fall presidential election.

If, and this is no longer a joke, Donald Trump is elected Republican president in November, foreigners serving time in the U.S. aren’t likely to catch a break on a mandatory life sentence for trucking tonnes of an illegal drug into the U.S.

For the record, Trump, despite growing up in the drug-crazed Sixties, has never smoked anything legal or illegal. He is also a non-drinker. His sole addiction is making money. He is a Ronald Reagan anti-drug guy.

As harsh as the life sentences seem to folks on this side of the border, the fact is  both men knew that this is what they would face if ever turned over to the Americans. They figured it would never happen and that they were operating in a safe zone. That the Americans would never get their hands on them. But it did happen. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment crime. It was well thought out criminal operation that ran for years and, according to evidence, brought in millions of dollars. It was one of the city’s worst kept secrets.

The fact is, for most law-abiding citizens who work hard to make a living, pay their taxes, put bread on the table and pay the rent, it is hard to feel much sympathy for two criminals who made more money in a year than they can earn for their families in years of honest toil.

TRIVIA ANSWER   Reader Brian Windle has the answer to last week’s trivia. It was Cornwall Motor Sales. His father, Vince, worked in the CMS parts and maintenance section. He recalls visiting his dad at work and walking the length of the dealership from Third Street to Second Street, and the ramp that ran from the ground level to the second floor were cars were stored. Veteran salesman Cy Latulippe’s desk was at the front of the dealership off Second Street.

TRIVIA    This Cornwall native who spent much of his juvenile and adult life in jail became a Governor-General’s Award winner, for non-fiction, in 1978 with a book on his experiences  in and out of jail.

FROM THE VAULT    Carole Libbey of Heritage-Patrimoine passes along some info on hall of fame band Rush that played at the old Aardvark night club on First Street East. They played for a week in 1974 (not 1972 as thought), April 15-20. It was the club’s grand opening. Meanwhile, our crack research team has discovered that Aardvark owner Peter Gatien forked out $1,000 to book the up-and-coming rockers from Scarborough. That was a pretty hefty fee in 1974 for a small-town club. The band returned May 31-June 3. Cornwall native Gatien went on to become one of the best-known night club owners in the U.S. … Reader sends a Grade 8 Central Public School photo from late 1940s. Teacher C. E. Petepiece, later the first principal of Memorial Park Public School, is seen with his students, all 43 of them. No teacher’s assistant. This was before elementary school pupil-teacher ratios. Years later (well, not that many years later) C.E. Petepiece was my Grade 6 teacher at Memorial Park. We had 40 kids in the class. He also served as school principal and his office was adjacent to the classroom. Time to time one of us was selected for “office duty.” That meant spending 30 minutes in the office, sitting behind the desk and taking any telephone calls (no voice mail). I can remember sitting behind the desk, with the black rotary telephone in front of me, praying that it wouldn’t ring.

HERE AND THERE   On Christmas Eve, perhaps on his way to Christmas Eve mass, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio did some last-minute shopping for himself. The Florida senator told CBS news that he purchased a new handgun to protect his family from ISIS. Florida had 987 murders in 2014. None was connected to ISIS.  … Interesting, isn’t it, that every time there is a terror attack, or raised threat of one, the word from the political ivory towers to the unwashed is to go about business as usual while their protection is ramped up. … Dalton Trump claims that as president he would have the 11 million illegal Mexicans  living in the U.S. deported, pronto. As Bill O’Reilly of Fox News noted, each illegal resident would be entitled to a court hearing. It would take decades to deport all 11 million. … City native and resident Frank Burelle has launched an new arts venture with an arts and photo studio in the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Building on Second Street West

AROUND AND ABOUT   Headline in a Toronto newspaper declared “Trudeau heads overseas to sell Canada”. If the price is right, the Chinese might be interested in buying up what they don’t already own. … Another big drug bust in Massena.  A New Jersey man was arrested last week after 250 packets of heroin and 50 grams of crack cocaine were found in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop. Two months ago a drug haul worth $10 million ($13.6M Canadian) was found hidden in a vehicle during a routine traffic stop by a Massena sheriff’s deputy. Law enforcement in St. Lawrence County has not danced around the issue, publicly declaring that the Massena area has a major drug problem.

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