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Former beauty queen’s notoriety ‘way beyond’ role in riot: lawyer


VANCOUVER — A former beauty queen whose crowning as Miss Congeniality made her one of the highest-profile suspects in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot has pleaded guilty, and her lawyer has suggested the woman’s international notoriety has gone far beyond what her case deserves.

Sophie Laboissonniere, who was 20 at the time of the June 2011 riot, was not in court Monday, when her lawyer entered the plea on her behalf.

The Richmond, B.C., resident was among the first batch of suspects charged after the riot. Media reports quickly identified her as the winner of Miss Congeniality at a local beauty pageant, sending her name and photo across the country and farther afield.

She was charged with one count of participating in a riot and one count of breaking and entering. She pleaded guilty to the riot charge, while the break-and-enter charge will be stayed by the Crown once she is sentenced, said her lawyer, David Baker.

The court has yet to hear what exactly Laboissonniere did as rioters torched cars, smashed windows and looted stores around her. Those details will come out at a sentencing hearing later this year, which she must attend, Baker said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be commenting on the facts now, but I can say this: compared to the vast majority of people charged here, her participation in this riot was at the very low end of the scale,” Baker told reporters outside provincial court.

“She has received a level of notoriety that goes way beyond the offence she committed. She’s stuck with that for a long time.”

When asked why Laboissonniere did not appear at the hearing, Baker said, “To avoid this,” as he faced a throng of reporters and television cameras

During Monday’s brief court appearance, the Crown asked for a pre-sentence report with a “psychological component.” Neither the Crown nor Baker elaborated on the reason for such a report.

The riot started in the dying minutes of Game 7 on June 15, 2011, as the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins.

The trouble began in a public viewing area, where thousands of people had gathered to watch the game on giant screens. It was there that the first car was set ablaze, but the mayhem quickly spread.

By the end of the night, as a mix of smoke and tear gas hung over the city’s downtown, rioters had caused more than $4 million in damage spread over several blocks.

The Crown has approved charges against 173 people, while police have recommended charges against a total of 315 suspected rioters.

To date, there have been 110 guilty pleas involving adults and young offenders, 33 of whom have been sentenced, according to statistics provided by the province’s criminal justice branch.

Punishments have ranged from suspended and conditional sentences that avoided time in custody, community service orders, and jail terms of more than a year.

 
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