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Crown stays 9 charges against owner of Smuggler's Inn
Prosecutors have stayed nine of the charges against the owner of the popular Smuggler's Inn bed-and-breakfast, but he's still facing another 21 counts under the Immigration Act.
Crown revealed the decision Tuesday during a court appearance for Robert Joseph Boule, who is accused of helping smuggle at least seven people across his property in Blaine, Washington into B.C.
Boule pleaded not guilty to all counts during the hearing.
Neither he not his lawyer would say whether they were relieved about the stay of the nine counts, which date back to 2016 and 2017, but when CTV News asked Boule if he felt the Canadian government was "making an example of him," he answered "Yes."
Nathalie Houle, a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, told CTV News in statement the decision to stay the charges was made in order "to obtain the earliest possible dates on the most serious charges [Boule] faces."
That trial, which concerns charges that stem from May 2018 to March of this year, while Boule was already out on bail for the first indictment, is now set for January 2020.
Boule’s longtime friend Len Saunders called the stay "a step in the right direction" and said the long list of bail conditions have placed an enormous financial burden on the Smuggler’s Inn owner.
"He’s had to cut off his business phone. He’s had to cut off his website. In effect, he’s been put out of business by the Canadian courts," Saunders said.
A judge also required Boule to post a lighted four-foot by eight-foot warning sign in his backyard along the border that reads: "Warning: It is illegal to enter Canada directly from Smuggler's Inn property."
The owner is bound by a court order to report to Canadian authorities the identity of anyone who enters Canada illegally from this property.
The same warning also appears on the Smuggler’s Inn’s new website.
Saunders said he believes the Canadian government is making Boule their scapegoat.
"I’ve had taxi owners tell me that they’re concerned about picking up individuals and dropping them near the border," Saunders said. "There definitely is…a chilling effect."
Supporters have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Boule’s legal defence. It says $17,220 has been raised by the community in donations, but so far, no one has donated toward the page’s goal of $40,000.
"What do you want to say to the people of Blaine who are supporting you through this?" CTV News asked Boule on Tuesday.
"I can’t say anything at this point," Boule said. "Sorry, I wish I could."