Judge delivers lengthy sentences to producers

Former Broadway producer and Livent CEO Garth Drabinsky was sentenced to a surprisingly severe seven years in prison Wednesday by Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto, while his partner, Myron Gottlieb, received a sentence of six years.

Both men were found guilty of two counts of fraud and one count of forgery earlier this summer, with Benotto ruling that Drabinsky and Gottlieb had put into play a scheme of fraudulent accounting that erroneously attributed pre-production costs to fixed assets, then hid the expenses by transferring from one show to another.

“This was not a one-time impulsive act but a systemic method of accounting involving employees and suppliers,” she said. “The evidence at trial disclosed a myriad of people who suffered as a result of the fraud.” The length of the sentences, she added, represents a message to “those in business and the community … that this will be the court’s response to corporate fraud.”

The prosecution had demanded a sentence of eight to 10 years, claiming the pair showed no remorse for their actions but instead insisted they had been set up by jealous employees.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb’s attorney had asked for about two years of house arrest, followed by three years’ probation, during which they were to tour universities, speaking on business ethics.

Instead, Drabinsky was sentenced to 11 years: four for the first fraud conviction and seven for the second, but the sentences are to be served concurrently.

Gottlieb’s punishment was slightly lighter: 10 years, with four years on the first fraud conviction and six on the second to be served concurrently. Benotto felt Drabinsky’s partner, although guilty, had suffered from “unfair allegations” during the trial.

No additional sentencing was added for the forgery charges because Benotto determined that the facts underlying those misdeeds were the same as those for the fraud charges.

A file of dozens of letters supporting the defendants, penned by the likes of Christopher Plummer and E.L. Doctorow, seemingly had no influence on the final verdict.

Drabinsky, who began in the film industry and turned to theater after being forced out of the Cineplex organization, was the driving force behind legit productions including “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Showboat,” “Ragtime” and “Fosse.” His shows earned 61 Tony nominations and won 19.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb were released on bail, and their lawyers have announced they will appeal the sentence.

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