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Openly gay member of Canadian parliament to plead guilty to theft

Openly gay member of Canadian parliament to plead guilty to theft

Svend Robinson, the first openly gay member of Canada's parliament, will plead guilty to stealing an expensive diamond ring, his lawyer said. Robinson, a prominent member of the New Democratic Party and environmental activist, "has indicated from the outset he'll be accepting full responsibility for his actions," attorney Michael Bolton said on Thursday. When asked if that meant his client would plead guilty, Bolton said, "That's what that means." Robinson, charged with theft over $5,000, will likely attend the next hearing in the case August 6 in provincial court, his lawyer said. Robinson, 52, shocked Canada's political world by announcing tearfully in mid April that he was stepping aside because of an act of "utter irrationality," pocketing an expensive ring at a public auction on Good Friday. "Something just snapped," he said. Robinson, who lives with his partner, Max Riveron, said he's been suffering "extreme stress and emotional pain," partly from a severe injury in a hiking accident in 1997. Federal Auction Service Inc. of Brampton, Canada, said the theft was recorded on videotape and police had been contacted. Robinson said he turned himself in after a tortured Easter weekend of self-examination. On Tuesday the company announced that the ring was valued at $64,500 (US$48,375), adding, "We feel the police and the justice system are dealing with this matter appropriately." Robinson was charged in late June, a week before the Canadian election. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, but law experts say first-time thieves rarely get jail time. With a conviction, Robinson, a longtime advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, would likely be barred from entering the United States, although he could apply for a waiver and eventually be granted a yearlong travel pass. First elected to parliament in 1979 for the seat from suburban Burnaby-Douglas near Vancouver, Robinson has been a frequent lightning rod for controversy. During the 1980s he was arrested during an antilogging blockade. He revealed his homosexuality in 1988. A champion of the right to die, he was present when Sue Rodriguez, suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, committed doctor-assisted suicide in 1994.

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