Phone fraud trial set for October
Travel restrictions protested

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 09/97) - Twelve Yellowknife men charged with telecommunications theft in January appeared in territorial court Tuesday in preparation for a jury trial next October.

It will take that long before witnesses will be able to attend trial, Crown prosecutor Sandra Aitken said.

All 12, who are accused of defrauding NorthwesTel out of millions of dollars worth of long-distance calls, will appear in court again on May 20 to set a date for a preliminary hearing prior to a jury trial in Supreme Court.

Eight others facing similar charges in Inuvik appeared in territorial court there.

One of lawyers defending the men, Tom Boyd, protested in Yellowknife to Judge Brian Bruser about travel restrictions imposed as part of their bail releases.

Many of the men are taxi drivers, but now need permission from the police to drive to Rae, Boyd said.

They can't visit their families in the South, and their lives have been significantly disrupted, he said, comparing the trial process to a meandering stream.

The judge reviewed the bail conditions and said that all the men had to do was let the police know where they were going in the NWT.

Some of the charged men in Inuvik have even travelled outside the NWT and all have returned, so the restrictions aren't absolute, Bruser pointed out.

He added that it was only their second appearance in court said the process should not rushed.

Bruser ordered all defence lawyers to confer with the chief judge of the NWT to determine the block of time needed for the preliminary hearing, prior to May 20.

He said the cost to the taxpayers of having witnesses attend must be considered.