Senator’s wife spends first anniversary in court after mid-flight fracas


Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 – Globe and Mail

A year ago, Maygan Sensenberger was resplendent at the head of a Parliament Hill wedding procession, having pictures taken with her groom by the political photographer who’d captured images of Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien.

The Collingwood, Ont., native was 22 when she married Liberal Senator Rod Zimmer in Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral. He was 68.

They spent their first anniversary Monday under a court order forbidding contact. The closest they got was the sightline between a prisoner’s box and a courtroom gallery.

Instead of celebrating at her brother-in-law’s Saskatoon-area farmhouse, Ms. Sensenberger spent the weekend in jail, charged with creating a disturbance and endangering the safety of a plane during a flight from Ottawa to Saskatoon.

In the middle of a mid-air fracas that escalated for hours, police say, the 23-year-old threatened to kill her husband and “take the plane down.” The bizarre incident has caught the attention of news organizations across the globe.

Ms. Sensenberger was released Monday on the condition that she’s not to have contact with Mr. Zimmer.

Wayne Zimmer met his sister-in-law for the first time in court, as he escorted her out and helped her find a hotel.

“She was crying, she was this and she was that,” he said. “She’s only 23, for God’s sake. What did you expect?”

Wayne Zimmer is convinced the charges won’t stick and the case will be moved down to family court by Tuesday. He attributes the incident to misunderstandings and an overzealous flight crew.

But Saskatoon police say the couple spent hours in an increasingly aggressive argument. As the plane approached Saskatoon’s airport around 8 p.m. Thursday, the city’s police for got a call from its crew “to deal with a passenger who had become disruptive,” said police spokeswoman Alyson Edwards.

“We believe that alcohol may have been involved.”

Ms. Sensenberger was taken into police custody and spent a night in a Saskatoon detention cell before a first court appearance and transfer to Prince Albert’s Pine Grove Correctional Centre for Women. She’s now released on an undertaking and is to appear in court Tuesday.

Ms. Sensenberger did not respond to messages requesting comment Monday. An aunt reached by phone in Collingwood, Ont., wouldn’t talk about the couple’s relationship or last week’s incident, but said her niece has been unjustly skewered in the public eye. “She’s a beautiful, loving, wonderful, caring person. And everything that I’m reading on the Internet is totally blown out of proportion.”

Wayne Zimmer argues the whole incident had more to do with the Senator’s health. Ms. Sensenberger’s concern about a tightness in her husband’s chest prompted emergency paramedics to tend to him. Any threats Ms. Sensenberger made, Wayne Zimmer said, were in jest.

“She said ’em, but kind of in fun, as if I’d say,” his voice raised to a falsetto, “Listen, I’ll kill you if you do that to me.’ That type of thing.”

But “they were not fighting,” he said. “She may have had something to drink. … She is a bit of a fireball.”

Sen. Zimmer is known in Liberal circles as The Rodfather for his fundraising clout. Co-workers say he started to date after divorcing his wife Deborah Lamont a few years ago.

The couple’s marriage was the culmination of years of a progressively public romance: She was on the Manitoba Senator’s arm at a Paralympic gala he co-sponsored in Vancouver. Reams of photos posted to her Facebook wall depict the two of them in Florida; in a tiny plane over Parliament Hill; on a snowy shooting range. An online album titled “our new home” depicts the two embracing in an unfurnished house, champagne nearby.

Jean-Marc Carisse, official photographer for multiple prime ministers, shot the couple’s wedding and “a variety of portraits of them before it.”

Ms. Sensenberger’s 68-year-old grandmother Rita said the two met on a blind date.

“They’ve been together for years,” she said from her home in Collingwood. “They waited until after she had her 21st birthday to announce that they were together.”

With a report from the Canadian Press

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