June 22nd, 2024

Coutts case adjourned awaiting disclosure

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on March 29, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Lawyers for 13 individuals arrested on weapons charges during the blockade at the Coutts border last month, have adjourned their matters until next month while they wait to receive disclosure from the Crown’s office.
The matters were addressed briefly Monday in Lethbridge provincial court, where Aaron Rankin of Specialized Prosecutions in Calgary said he is still waiting to receive the information from the RCMP, but expects it by the end of the week.
The accused, Ursula Allred, 22, Johnson Chichow Law, 39, Justin Martin, 22, Eastin Stewart Oler, 22, Joanne Person, 62, Janx Zaremba, 18, Luke Berk, 62, Jaclyne Martin, 39, Evan Colenutt, 23, Chris Carbert, 44, Christopher Lysak, 48, Anthony Olienick, 39, and Jerry Morin, 40, are each charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and mischief.
Carbert, Lysak, Olienick and Morin are also charged with conspiracy to murder, and they remain in custody pending bail hearings. The other nine accused were previously released on bail with several conditions, including prohibitions from attending protests, possessing weapons, and going further south than Milk River. Lysak was detained in custody following a bail hearing March 1 in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench. Carbert, Olienick and Morin were scheduled to have bail hearings later the same week, but their lawyers cancelled following Lysak’s detention.
RCMP arrested the 13 individuals Feb. 14 during the protest at the Coutts border, after becoming aware of a cache of firearms and ammunition. A blockade of trucks and vehicles had been at the border crossing since Jan. 29, but protestors began dispersing Feb. 15 in response to the discovery of weapons.
“The development with weapons and the personal armour was not associated with us, and to keep that distance we decided to leave peacefully,” said Marco Van Huigenbos, one of the protest organizers.
Police said a small organized group within the protest was willing to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade. During the early-morning raid Feb. 14, police uncovered 13 long guns, as well as handguns, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition and body armour. Two additional weapons were seized later in the day.
According to a CBC report last month, two of the four southern Alberta men accused of conspiring to murder RCMP officers, Lysak and Carbert, have ties to a man who founded a neo-fascist, white supremacist group that aims to accomplish its goals through violence. Jeremy MacKenzie is the Nova Scotia founder of Diagolon, a group described by University of New Brunswick professor David Hofmann as an American-style militia movement. Two Diagolon patches were found on body armour seized by police during the execution of the Coutts search warrants.
Five national media outlets – CBC, Postmedia, CTV News, Global News and The Globe and Mail – were also represented in court Monday in their bid to get information relating to the search warrants that were issued for Carbert, Lysak, Olienick and Morin.
Tess Layton, a media lawyer with Reynold, Mirth, Richards and Farmer in Edmonton, told court the warrants were issued in relation to weapons and ammunition that were seized by police. The media outlets are applying to have the information used to obtain those warrants unsealed, and the matter is scheduled to return to court on April 11.
The matters for all the accused except Person are set to return to court April 11. Person’s next court hearing is set for April 25, when court will speak to an additional charge of dangerous driving stemming from an incident Feb. 1 when a pickup truck drove through the blockade and headed toward oncoming traffic before becoming part of a head-on collision.
Mounties also charged James Edward Sowery, 36, from Flagstaff County southeast of Edmonton. He was charged with assault with a weapon and dangerous driving after a large commercial vehicle drove at him, forcing him to run out of the way to avoid being hit.
Lawyer Lisa Trach applied to amend some of Sowery’s release conditions, particularly a condition that prohibits him from driving. Trach said her client drives a truck for a living but has been unable to work since he was arrested. She said the prohibition is not proportional to the gravity of the offence, especially since the offence occurred during the protest – which has since concluded – and will not be repeated.
Rankin pointed out, however, that the officer believed he would be struck when a commercial truck slowly began driving toward him as he stood on the highway. As the truck picked up speed and swerved at the officer, the officer jumped out of the way, and the truck struck a pylon that was next to the officer.
The officer wrote in his notes that the driver said he knew he had hit the traffic cone but he was not trying to hit the officer.
Judge Erin Olsen replaced Sowery’s undertaking with a release order, that prohibits him from being within two kilometres of a border. He is not allowed to go to Milk River or possess any weapons, and he is prohibited from attending protests. He is allowed, however, to drive but only while working.
“He should not be driving a work vehicle to go out for a cheeseburger, to go to a bar, to go for a visit or any other such thing; he would have to walk or get a ride,” Olsen said.
Sowery’s matters return to court April 25.

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