A sentencing hearing for Hinchinbrooke resident Gary Arnold started on March 6 after he was found guilty by a jury on February 19 of five charges including kidnapping, extortion, and conspiracy to kidnap for the abduction of James and Sandra Helm of Upstate New York. Prosecutors are seeking a 17-year prison sentence for his participation in the 2020 kidnapping of the couple.
Prosecutor Edith Lafontaine argued before Quebec Superior Court judge Michel Pennou that Arnold was a key player in the kidnapping plot, while pointing to his previous convictions including cigarette smuggling into Canada through the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne. The Helms were smuggled by boat through Akwesasne before being held for ransom at a cottage in Magog. The Crown has argued that the kidnapping was orchestrated following a botched drug deal involving the couple’s grandson, Mackenzie Helm.
Defense lawyer John T. Pepper is seeking a sentence of around 10 years. He maintained Arnold’s claim that he had acted under threat and was not aware of the kidnapping plot. During the trial, Sandra Helm testified that Arnold was one of the men who entered her home on the night of the kidnapping. Arnold maintains he has never met the Helms and was never inside their home in Moira, N.Y.
The jury returned a guilty verdict after being sequestered for 12 days. They were not aware that the four other men accused in the case had pleaded guilty ahead of Arnold’s trial. Franco D’Onofrio and Kosmos Dritsas received 15- and 13-year sentences respectively, while George Dritsas and Taylor Lawrence Martin received sentences of six and seven and a half years, respectively.
Pepper argued Arnold should be considered a participant in the plot and not the orchestrator. He said Arnold’s sentence should be less than D’Onofrio and Dritsas, who were both on parole for unrelated convictions when they were arrested.
The case will return to court on March 16. (Canadian Press)
Update: This article was edited at 8:20 p.m. on March 8 to correct Gary Arnold’s municipality of residence.