July 12th, 2024

Pretrial hearing underway for accused in Coutts conspiring to murder case

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on March 19, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Two men facing a charge of conspiracy to commit murder during the 2022 Coutts border protest are in a two-week hearing as Crown and defence lawyers prepare for trial later this Spring.

Anthony Olienick and Chris Carbert are sitting through pre-trial motions in Lethbridge court of Justice, where their lawyers and the Crown are presenting and responding to respective motions, and are expected to call a number of witnesses, including police officers, who were involved in the protest of COVID-19 health measures and restrictions.

Evidence presented and testimony heard during the hearing is subject to a publication and can’t be reported.

The two accused are also jointly charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and mischief by interrupting or interfering with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property. Olienick faces an additional charge of possession of an explosive substance.

They are scheduled to have a jury trial for several weeks beginning May 27. Jury selection is set for May 24.

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. RCMP reported that at one point the RCMP 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.

Two other men who also faced charges of conspiracy to commit murder, resolved their charges last month with guilty pleas to lesser charges.

Christopher Lysak pleaded Feb. 6 to a single charge of possession of a weapon in an unauthorized place, while Jerry Morin pleaded to a charge of conspiracy to traffic firearms.

Lysak received a three-year prison sentence, but was immediately released after he was credited for the equivalent amount of time he already spent in remand custody since his arrest. He received a 10-year weapon prohibition and was ordered to provide DNA, and he must forfeit a handgun and other firearms to another firearms owner with a valid Possession and Acquisition license (PAL).

“Mr. Lysak maintains his innocence regarding all the charges he faced,” Lysak’s lawyer, Daniel Song, said in a prepared statement shortly after his client’s plea. “However, he pleaded guilty…before Justice Hartigan to possessing his licensed and registered handgun in a place that was not authorized.”

Song pointed out that the offence to which Lysak pleaded guilty was not in the original indictment, and at the conclusion of sentencing, all charges in the indictment were withdrawn.

“To be clear, Mr. Lysak did not admit to possessing his handgun for a dangerous purpose. He did not attend the Coutts protests with the intent to harm anyone. He admits that his firearm was loaded with ammunition at the time of police seizure, but denies having loaded and chambered the gun.”

Morin received a sentence of just under three and a half years, which was also satisfied by time already served in remand custody, as well as additional time spent in segregation. He also received a 10-year weapons prohibition and was ordered to provide DNA, and he must transfer firearms to another firearms owner with a valid PAL.

“Mr. Morin has steadfastly maintained from the very beginning that he played no part of any alleged conspiracy to murder police officers and is relieved and grateful that those charges, and associated allegations, have been withdrawn by the crown,” Calgary lawyer Greg Dunn said in a statement. “Moreover the charge that Mr. Morin pled guilty to does not suggest that Mr. Morin at any time took firearms into Coutts, only that he agreed to.

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