Lawyer wants charges droppedWednesday, October 09, 2002
A judge should quash charges against a female corrections employee allegedly involved in what police believe to be a bizarre conspiracy to plot sexual assaults because the evidence is too thin, the woman's lawyer said Tuesday.
Marlene Chalfoun, 35, a Montreal court liaison for the provincial government, appeared in court briefly late Tuesday afternoon. Wearing a grey blazer and with her wrists in handcuffs, she kept her head bowed and seemed stunned by the events.
Chalfoun is charged with conspiring with inmate Nick Paccione, 35, and Angelo Colalillo, 38, to commit a sexual assault. Colalillo also has been arrested and is in custody.
Paccione, a repeat sex offender, is currently behind bars at a maximum security jail in Quebec.
Chalfoun's lawyer, Jean-Marc Tremblay told Quebec court Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traore he intends to file a motion to have the three charges against his client thrown out.
"As of now, the (charges), at the very least, are not valid," said Tremblay.
Tremblay added it was unfair for the judge to postpone hearing his motion, and a bail hearing if necessary, to Thursday.
Westmoreland-Traore decided there wasn't enough time to hear the case Tuesday despite Tremblay's arguments that Chalfoun had been in jail since her arrest Thursday.
The bail hearing was delayed in part because the court also had to sort through an unrelated case involving several people charged with dealing crack cocaine. But Tremblay said his client should not be held pending the bail hearing.
"Only the public ministry believes this person must be detained," said Tremblay.
Court records state Chalfoun is also charged with sexually assaulting "people who are as of now unknown" sometime between June and September.
Outside the courtroom, Tremblay said he intends to argue that the charge referring to the unknown victims should either be quashed or made more specific.
On Tuesday, police laid a third charge accusing Chalfoun of being an accomplice after a sexual assault earlier this month. However, Chalfoun was not formally arraigned on that charge Tuesday.
Crown prosecutor Louis Miville-Deschenes said he intends to oppose bail for Chalfoun.
``The evidence revealed by the investigation shows these are three people who knew each other and corresponded with each other ... as acquaintances and people who showed similar interests,'' said Miville-Deschenes outside court.
Tremblay said his client is "traumatized" by her arrest.
"She's a strong woman and she's pretty intelligent," said Tremblay.
"With a lot of support I think she'll be able to get through this."
He said he's troubled and frustrated by the lack of evidence he has been given so far .
"With the evidence I have there is no victim of a sexual aggression," said Tremblay.
"It's practically impossible to present a defence and at least find out what's going on with our case."
Miville-Deschenes defended the evidence concerning unknown victims, saying he's confident that with the evidence presented to Chalfoun's lawyer ``she knows what we're approaching.''
Chalfoun and Colalillo were arrested Thursday night as part of a Montreal police investigation into a July 17 sexual assault in east-end Riviere des Prairies.
Colalillo was charged after a man lured a young woman into a car and attempted to force her to have sex at gunpoint. The woman managed to fight off her attacker and flee.
Chalfoun has worked for Quebec's prison system since 1992, when she was hired as a temporary probation officer.
Part of her responsibilities included checking on whether offenders were meeting their sentence requirements. Police believe that's how she met Paccione.
Chalfoun, who a prison spokesman described as an excellent employee, has been suspended without pay.
Colalillo is also being investigated as a suspect in the brutal sexual assault last week of a 20-year-old college student who was nearly strangled and then left on a burning mattress in her home in Ste-Therese, north of Montreal.
Paccione, a self-described sex addict since he was 12 years old, was declared a dangerous offender two years ago after he was convicted in 1999 of attempting to sexually assault a 10-year-old girl in her own home.
Inmates declared dangerous offenders in Canada can be kept in jail indefinitely.
© Copyright 2002 Canadian Press
© Copyright 2002 Montreal Gazette