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Jail term upheld for ringleader of Nova Scotia ‘murder for lobster’ case

The boat that Phillip Boudreau was on before his death is pictured on Nov. 18, 2014. .
The boat that Phillip Boudreau was on before his death is pictured on Nov. 18, 2014. . Aly Thomson/The Canadian Press

The unrepentant ringleader of Nova Scotia’s “murder for lobster” case lost his bid Wednesday to have his 14-year jail term reduced to match the lesser sentence given his son-in-law.

“The attack … was horrific. It should never have started,” wrote Justice Duncan Beveridge of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

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Joseph James Landry of Little Anse, N.S., was sentenced to 14 years in the manslaughter death of Phillip Boudreau, 43.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia boat captain sentenced to 10 years for role in violent death at sea

Boudreau’s damaged, overturned boat was found shortly after he disappeared off Petit-de-Grat, an Acadian fishing village near the southern tip of Cape Breton. The case attracted national attention when a Crown prosecutor described the case as “murder for lobster.”

Landry and his son-in-law, Dwayne Matthew Samson, believed Boudreau was stealing lobsters and cutting traps, and spotted him while out fishing aboard the Twin Maggies on June 1, 2013. Landry fired four shots at Boudreau, who tried to flee but his propeller became tangled in the lines of the severed traps.

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Landry and Sampson tried pulling the boat to sea, and then rammed it three times. Boudreau ended up in the water, clinging to a red gas can. Landry tried to use a gaff to snag Boudreau, but he soon had white foam coming from his mouth and appeared lifeless.

There was evidence Samson and Landry tied an anchor to Boudreau, and let him sink to the seabed.

The body was never found. Both Samson and Landry were charged with second-degree murder.

READ MORE: Cape Breton fisherman given 14-year prison sentence in lobster slaying

Samson, the boat’s captain, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years. Landry – who had never been in trouble with the law before, and enjoyed a good reputation in the community – argued at appeal he should get the same.

But Beveridge said the trial judge, Justice Joseph Kennedy, found Samson was following Landry’s orders and showed genuine remorse.

“On the other hand, (Landry) expressed no remorse for his actions … he insisted that he did not deserve to be in jail because of the victim’s record and long-term conduct in cutting their traps.”

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In a videotaped statement to police, Landry had said he “wanted to destroy” Boudreau for cutting traps and threatening to set his house on fire. “I was seeing black. I was so mad.”

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Landry was convicted of manslaughter, and given a sentence reflecting what the trial judge called “near murder.”

READ MORE: Case dismissed against woman charged in death of lobster fisherman

In his ruling Wednesday, Beveridge rejected suggestions the trial judge misunderstood Landry’s role in the death, and said the sentence was not excessive.

The trial judge, he said, “found that there were significant differences in moral blameworthiness,” and did not err in imposing a harsher sentence on Landry.