Former Flyers forward Jori Lehtera was convicted in a Finnish court Wednesday of buying cocaine and given a four-month suspended prison sentence. Lehtera will not have to serve the sentence as long as he is not arrested on any serious charges through October 2021, according to Finnish news reports.
Lehtera, who is currently playing with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, has denied the charges and did not respond to a request for comment made through a Flyers spokesman. His attorney, Petteri Sotamaa, in an email said Lehtera will appeal.
“Mr. Lehtera has been convicted without any evidence," Sotamaa said. "The outcome of the case seems to have depended more on the pretrial publicity than anything that took place in the courtroom. Mr. Lehtera’s conviction is utterly baseless and against the constitutional rule of law.”
In December, prosecutors in Lehtera’s native Finland charged the hockey player with buying 6 grams of cocaine in June and July in the town of Tampere. He was one of 22 defendants in the case. The ring was accused of moving more than 1.8 kilos of cocaine in the region, according to court records. Some of the drugs were allegedly stashed in the locker room of a public sauna, the newspaper Aamulehti reported.
On Wednesday, one defendant in the case was sentenced to spend 10 years in jail.
Lehtera said he knew one of the defendants but denied buying drugs from him or anyone else. Testifying by video feed in February, he said he once paid for one of the men to attend drug rehab. He and his wife both testified that they are opposed to drug use, according to Finnish news reports.
Prosecutors had sought a five-month sentence against Lehtera.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher did not respond to a request for comment made through a team spokesman. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league had no comment “at this time.”
Lehtera was a regular with the Flyers for most of the 2017-18 campaign and for the first quarter of this season. He played in 27 games this season and had a goal and two assists.
The Flyers sent Lehtera to the Phantoms on Feb. 7. He has played just five games with the Phantoms and has been seen in South Jersey recently.
He is being paid $5 million ($4.7 million cap hit) by the Flyers this season in the third year of a three-year, $14.1 million contract he signed with St. Louis. The Flyers will have paid him $9.7 million for two seasons, during which he scored a total of four goals in 89 games.