Joe Fontana breaks down at sentencing

Former London, Ont., mayor Joe Fontana is pictured in this February 7, 2014 file photo. (Mike...

Former London, Ont., mayor Joe Fontana is pictured in this February 7, 2014 file photo. (Mike Hensen/QMI Agency)

Jane Sims and Patrick Maloney, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. — Former London, Ont., mayor Joe Fontana was sentenced Tuesday to four months of house arrest for crimes committed when he was a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

Fontana, who resigned from the city’s top political job after his conviction last month, avoided going behind bars when the sentence was handed down by Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas.

An emotional Fontana walked away in tears after addressing reporters outside the courthouse, saying: “I’ve got a lot more to give.”

His four-month sentence will be followed by 18 months of probation. He must stay at home for the four months of his sentence, save for medical appointments and other approved outings.

Fontana also must pay $1,000 in “victim surcharge” payments and complete 150 hours of community service with charities in London.

Fontana lawyer Gord Cudmore told the court he has a $1,700 cheque from his client ready to send to Ottawa, to repay the federal government what he took in 2005.

Fontana, 64, was arrested in late 2012 after he used a $1,700 federal cheque to help pay for his son’s 2005 wedding reception at the Marconi Club in London.

He was Canada's labour minister at the time, under Paul Martin's minority Liberal government.

He was convicted last month on three charges: uttering forged documents, breach of trust by a public official and fraud under $5,000.

Thomas agreed Tuesday to “stay,” or set aside, the forgery conviction, citing case law that directs judges not to sentence a person twice for two crimes committed in the same situation.

The Crown had requested a jail term of four to six months.

Thomas noted in his sentence that Fontana "resigned in disgrace" as mayor, and that "his reputation is in tatters.”

He also noted the crime is bigger than the cheque amount would suggest, as political fraud creates mistrust of the whole system.

It was an emotional day in the courtroom, where Fontana sobbed upon mention that the fraud was committed within months of his mother's death in 2005.

Fontana also gave an impassioned statement to the judge. In addressing the court, Fontana describe the forging of the wedding-rental agreement to make it look like a government event as “very, very stupid” and “very, very, very wrong.

“I made a big mistake,” he said, adding his family has suffered a public shaming as a result of his conviction.

“I regret the pain and embarrassment I have caused by family, and when my 10-year old grandson has to start defending me in the school yard.

I regret the pain I caused them, my family, my friends, the city I love and the country I love.”

Defence lawyer Gord Cudmore had asked for a sentence of probation and community service.

He said outside court that Fontana shouldn't be defined by this one criminal act.


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