July 20th, 2024

Sentencing adjourned for man found guilty of assaulting cop at Coutts blockade

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 15, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

The sentencing of a southern Alberta man found guilty earlier this year of assaulting a police officer at the Coutts border blockade in 2022, has been adjourned.

James Edward Sowery was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench on charges of assault with a weapon and dangerous driving, but the matter was adjourned until next week when a new sentencing date will be scheduled.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours following Sowery’s trial last March before they found him guilty of deliberately accelerating his hydrovac truck toward RCMP officer Const. Cory Kornicki, who had been conducting traffic stops Feb. 14, 2022 along Highway 4 near Milk River.

During trial, Sowery said he did not intentionally swerve at Const. Cory Kornicki, but the officer testified he had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck. Kornicki estimated Sowery was driving about 80 km/hr, while Sowery guessed his speed was closer to 60 km/hr.

Sowery said that as he approached the check stop, the officer waved at him, and he thought the officer was waving goodbye, not telling him to stop. He was pulled over shortly afterward and he immediately got out of his truck, knelt on the ground and put his hands in the air, the jury heard.

That, Crown Prosecutor Aaron Rankin said, is exactly how someone would act if he had just acted violently toward police. Minutes later Sowery apologized, which suggested he knew he had done something wrong, Rankin suggested.

Defence, on the other hand, said Sowery was compliant and cooperative with police when he was arrested, and while it would have been wiser for him to slow down, his actions did not constitute dangerous driving or assault with a weapon.

The 2022 blockade paralyzed the busy U.S. border crossing at Coutts for more than two weeks as protesters railed against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and broader pandemic health restrictions.

Sowery is among the first of several people arrested during the blockade to stand trial. Four men, Christopher Lysak, Anthony Olienick, Jerry Morin and Chris Carbert, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and were scheduled to begin their trial last June before it was adjourned so they can schedule a series of pre-trial applications before Justice David Labrenz. Defence is also expected to have the trial moved to another jurisdiction.

The accused were charged after police became aware of a small group of people who were prepared to use force against police, and officers subsequently seized from three trailers long guns, handguns, multiple sets of body armour, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition and high-capacity firearm magazines.

All four men have been denied bail, although Carbert is expected to have his detention reviewed in the coming weeks.

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