Former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington avoids prison
Appeals conviction for breach of probation
Peter Pocklington will not begin serving a six-month prison sentence on Monday. The former Edmonton Oilers owner has appealed his conviction for breaching probation on a previous perjury conviction related to a bankruptcy fraud case.
A California judge granted bail to the former Edmonton Oilers owner after he posted a $100,000 cash appearance bond. The United States Department of Justice did not oppose Pocklington’s bail application.
"I have appealed my conviction and the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco has agreed to hear it,” Pocklington told CBC News in a prepared statement. “That should happen in the next year to 18 months. My lawyer tells me we have a strong case."
In September, a judge in Riverside, Calif., east of Los Angeles, gave Pocklington until Dec. 9 to report to prison, allowing the 72-year-old time to recover from colon-reconstruction surgery scheduled for November.
Pocklington issued a statement at the time saying he accepted the judge’s finding of guilt and “full responsibility” for his actions, but he subsequently hired a new lawyer and filed an appeal of both the conviction and the sentence.
The judge had ruled Pocklington breached his probation by failing to tell his probation officer about hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and several bank accounts.
Pocklington’s lawyer argued that if the former Edmonton businessman was not granted bail, he would have served his sentence before his appeal was heard.
Pocklington and wife in poor health
In a written submission, the lawyer also detailed the various medical ailments of Pocklington and Eva, his wife of 40 years.
The lawyer said Pocklington is legally blind in one eye and is losing vision in his other eye due to age-related macular degeneration. Eva Pocklington, the lawyer said, requires a heart transplant.
The lawyer reiterated a previous claim that the couple’s children are not in a position to care for their parents; they only have each other.
As a condition of his bail, Pocklington had to surrender all his passports, can’t leave California, and must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Pocklington filed for bankruptcy in 2008, declaring only $2,900 in assets against more than $19 million in liabilities. He was nearly jailed in October 2010 after he pleaded guilty to lying to the court about his assets and income.
He was instead sentenced to two years’ house arrest and probation but the probation was extended after evidence surfaced he had been involved in a gold-mining, stock promotion scheme in Arizona.
Arizona securities fraud unsettled
In May, the Arizona Corporate Commission, the equivalent of provincial securities commissions in Canada, ordered Pocklington and an associate to pay more than $5 million US to settle a securities-fraud case.
Pocklington did not pay and Arizona joined a long list of creditors. That list includes the province of Alberta, which is owed more than $13 million from a bad 1988 loan to the company which operated the former Gainers packing plant in Edmonton.
Pocklington, known as “Peter Puck” bought part ownership of the Oilers in 1976 and the Oilers won five Stanley Cups under his ownership in the 1980s.
Many hockey fans in Alberta still harbour bitter feelings toward Pocklington because he traded superstar Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in 1988. He sold the team in 1998 and, hounded by creditors, moved to California four years later.