fuck the law: a small victory – not guilty verdict on my mischief under $5000 charge

ottawa, occupied algonquin territory

on thursday, nov. 27 i was in court for the judge’s decision on one count of mischief under $5000, and i was found not guilty.

last year, the crown offered to let me plead guilty and receive a sentence of one year of probation. however, because i did not want to be on probation, because it was an is clear to me that the charges were politically motivated and because my lawyer thought that we had a chance of winning at trial, i decided that i wanted to go to trial.

the reality is that even simply waiting to go to trial is somewhat like being on probation as i had conditions to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour,” which means, practically, that if i had been arrested again i would face an additional charge of breach of conditions. breach of conditions is also a more serious charge than mischief under $5000.

despite the fact that i was being offered 1 year probation, and that waiting for trial would take a long time, ultimately more than a year, i felt like it was important to push back legally against this attempt to coerce me, and so, to take the matter before the courts.

it was my first time going through a trial process – i have plead guilty to many other summary offences, and i have had charges stayed and dropped the one time i was being charged with an indictable offence.

the judge took 30 days to give his decision. as usual he read through his reasoning before coming to this conclusion which was that i was not guilty. the reasons that he chose to focus on was the failure of the crown to prove what was said and done when and by who, and therefore they did not meet the threshold of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. this was primarily because the crown witnesses had little or no recollection of what had happened, had no physical evidence, such as video footage, and they contradicted themselves about what had happened. they were not, in the judge’s opinion, particularly credible, and i, and my testimony, was more credible than they were. it was nerve wracking waiting for the decision, listening to him go through his reasoning point by point and trying to decipher what the verdict was going to be. when he finally said that he had found me not guilty, it felt of so good to win.

to be clear, i was ecstatic to win, and, at the same time, while it does help to have been through the criminal injustice system and to come out with a legal victory, it also reinforced how much this system is weighted in the favour of the crown, and, ultimately, of the system itself: i won the trial, but i have had to raise funds to cover legal expenses; my lawyer had to spend time defending against what is essentially malicious prosecution and politically targeting of myself for being a radical, grassroots political organizer; i had to go through the stress and strain of a trial; nowhere was the very obvious fact, and it came out in the police testimony, that i had been arrested for political reasons addressed; – and they still de facto had me on conditions to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for over a year.

still, a win is a win.

i intend to write up something more thorough about the whole exprience.
love and struggle,
matt

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