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Quebec judge denies bid by billionaire Robert Miller for stay in sex crimes trial

Robert Miller
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A Quebec Superior Court judge has declined to hear a Quebec billionaire businessman's application for a stay of proceedings after his lawyers argued he was too sick to appear in court next month.

Robert Miller, founder of global electronics distributor Future Electronics, was arrested in May on 21 sex charges involving 10 complainants, many of whom were minors when the alleged offences occurred between 1994 and 2016. One of the alleged victims was under the age of 14.

Miller's lawyers had argued that the 80-year-old Miller is unable to participate in the trial because his health has deteriorated from the effects of Parkinson's disease. They said the illness has left Miller in "an extremely frail condition," bedridden since 2022 and unable to bathe or feed himself.

Participating in the criminal trial would violate Miller's rights to be presumed innocent and to receive a fair trial because he will never be able to defend himself, according to the application.

In his decision dated Thursday, Judge Francois Dadour said he is not convinced by the urgency of the defence's claim that Miller's rights would be violated by having to appear in court on July 3. Dadour added that some of the future proceedings do not require Miller to appear physically in court or to oppose the charges.

"Later in the process, other arrangements could be envisaged, obviously including remote appearance or, absent consent, an exception to his attendance under the Criminal Code," Dadour wrote.

However, the judge said the situation may change and the court could decide to intervene at a later time.

Miller, who has denied the allegations, is facing charges including sexual assault, sexual interference, enticing a person to commit prostitution, sexual exploitation and sexual intercourse with a minor for consideration.

Police had opened an investigation into allegations against Miller in 2009, but at that time the province's prosecution service decided not to proceed with charges.

Before being charged criminally he was defending civil suits tied to the allegations, including a proposed class-action lawsuit.

In February, a Quebec judge ruled Miller could be questioned in the class-action suit before it is authorized, but only in writing. The lawyer for alleged victims in the case had asked to question Miller as soon as possible, citing fears the defendant could die before the case goes to trial.

Miller stepped down as chairman and CEO of Future Electronics in February 2023, saying he would focus on protecting his reputation amid reports by CBC and Radio-Canada that he allegedly committed sexual offences.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

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