Edawn Coughman stretches during Argos practice at U of T Toronto in Mississauga September 6th, 2011.
Credits: DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - Hulking Toronto Argonauts lineman Edawn Coughman broke down and wept in the prisoner's dock as he defended himself against firearms charges that could land him in jail.
The second-year CFL left tackle faces a minimum three-year sentence after a loaded Ruger pistol was found in his hotel room at the downtown Montreal Queen Elizabeth Hotel on Wednesday.
His lawyer blames the arrest on "cultural differences" between Canada and Coughman's home state of Georgia.
The six-foot-four, 310-pound athlete told the court Thursday that he didn't realize it was illegal for citizens to carry unregistered handguns in the streets of Montreal.
"I didn't know. It's different in the US," said Coughman, 23, who had come to Montreal for pre-season training.
"Had I known (about the law), I never would have come with (the gun)."
At another point, the lineman broke down in tears and said "all I want to do is play football and be a good citizen."
The Crown wants Judge Genevieve Graton to deny bail for Coughman, arguing that the American will never return to Canada if he's released.
He's been held in custody since his arrest on Wednesday morning. Coughman testified that he arrived in Montreal on Sunday to train with his friend Ted Laurence, a defensive lineman for the Edmonton Eskimos.
Court heard Coughman ordered a late-night meal and the waiter saw the pistol on a desk and alerted another staffer who dialed 911.
Police ran Coughman's name through the gun registry and saw he was not licensed to carry firearms.
A SWAT team was called to the hotel and he was arrested. The court heard that when police entered the room, the gun was no longer on the desk but was found under a mattress.
Coughman is charged with carrying an unlicensed, loaded weapon.
Coughman, a father of two boys, told the judge he bought the gun at a pawn shop in Georgia. It's legal in his home state to carry weapons at home, at work or in a car.
"There are cultural differences," said defence lawyer Hugues Surprenant. "Weapons laws are different ... and I think this will help put the case into perspective."
Coughman said he hopes to be released to take care of his family, including his wife, children and retired mother.
Coughman signed with the Argos last June and spent much of the season on the practice roster before getting a call-up in September when starter Rob Murphy was lost to injury.