Guy Lafleur pleads not guilty to misleading court

Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur has pleaded not guilty to a charge of misleading the court. The plea was entered by his lawyer at a court hearing Thursday in Montreal.

Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur has pleaded not guilty to a charge of misleading the court, with his lawyer entering the plea Thursday in Quebec Superior Court.

Jean-Pierre Rancourt said Lafleur did not intentionally mislead the court.

Police had issued an arrest warrant on Jan. 30 for Lafleur, alleging he provided contradictory evidence on the witness stand at his son Mark's bail hearings. 

The former NHL great turned himself in to Montreal police a day later.

"It's very rare that kind of accusation [misleading the court]," Rancourt said. " I know why because it's very hard to make the proof of that for the Crown because the burden is double.

"They have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the statements were contradictory. And after they prove that, if they succeed, they have to prove that he did that by purpose to mislead the court."

Lafleur wasn't present at Thursday's hearing.

"He didn't want to be there," Rancourt said. "An accused is not obliged to be there, so I do that for all my clients — it's not only for him."

Rancourt, who represents both Lafleurs, said Mark is saddened that his father's reputation is taking such a hit.

"He feels that he is responsible for his father's problem. His father always offered him all of his help and now [Guy] is in trouble because of his efforts to help Mark," Rancourt said. "Mark feels responsible for this misfortune."

Testimony backs his son

Lafleur, 56, testified last September that his son was abiding by a court-imposed curfew as he stayed with his parents in their Ile Bizard, Que., home.

However, Lafleur testified a month later before Superior Court Justice Carol Cohen that he was aware of the 12:30 a.m. ET curfew, yet when Mark was on weekend leave from the Maison Exode halfway house, he drove his son on two occasions to hotels to give him privacy with his teenage girlfriend.

Mark Lafleur, 23, faces more than 20 criminal charges, including sexual assault of a minor, armed assault, uttering threats and forcible confinement, between 2004 and 2007.

He remains in a Montreal jail awaiting a preliminary hearing on March 12 and 13.

Rancourt said Guy Lafleur is still angry about how the charges were brought against him.

"Guy personally is very sad and very mad with the way the Crown elected to serve him with his appearance in court with an arrest warrant."

Lafleur has kept a low profile since the warrant was issued, but thanked fans last Sunday for their support during his weekly newspaper column in Le Journal de Montreal, writing that he was maintaining a positive attitude.

Rancourt said Lafleur will likely opt for trial by judge and jury when he returns to court March 5 to have a date set for the preliminary hearing.

If convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Drafted first overall by Montreal in 1971, Lafleur had 560 goals and 1,353 points in 1,127 NHL games, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

With files from the Canadian Press