John Levi Free after weekend in prison
Crown stumbles in attempt to incarcerate Elsipogtog war chief, asks that he give no advice to community.
by Miles Howe
Levi and his soon-to-be wife share a hug upon his release. [Photo: Miles Howe]
MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK – It was standing room only today in courtroom 2 of the Moncton provincial courthouse, as supporters of Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi came to show solidarity with one of the key voices against SWN Resouces Canada’s attempts to explore for shale gas in Kent County, New Brunswick.
Levi, who had been imprisoned since Friday, July 5th – on charges of mischief and obstructing justice related to events of June 21st – appeared today for a bail hearing, and it was clear from the outset that the Crown would be arguing against Levi’s release.
Levi’s charges had also breached the conditions of a May 30th, 2012, conditional sentence, related to an altercation with Department of Fisheries officers, where it is alleged that one officer hit Levi’s son with a paddle.
Crown prosecutor Roy – from the outset ill-prepared in forgetting to share her documentation with defense lawyer T.J. Burke – argued against Levi’s release, based on the Crown’s estimation that Levi was likely to re-offend, as well as that his detention was necessary to maintain confidence in the justice of the Crown.
Roy’s first witness was a Constable Berube, who testified that Levi had “a history of violence against police officers and officers of the law.” Berube – apparently – based this determination upon the altercation with fisheries officers, a June 4th, 2013, seizure of a Stantec truck in Elsipogtog, as well as the alleged charges related to June 21st.
Burke was quick to reduce Berube’s testimony to little more than ill-formed conjecture. Berube had not been present at the altercation between Levi and the fisheries officers; no charges had ever been laid related to the June 4th truck seizure; nor was there any damage to people or property; nor was there any proof that Levi had even driven the seized truck. As for the charges related to June 21st; they are currently nothing more than allegations.
Roy’s second witness, Troy Sock, was Levi’s probation officer. It is unclear why Roy called Sock to the stand as a Crown witness, because the probation officer was quick to endorse Levi’s character as an “ideal client” who was “timely and showed up to every meeting”.
Sock noted that for the past 13 months Levi had met every one of fifteen conditions laid out for him in his conditional arrest, including several calls daily to Sock during an initial 6 months of house arrest.
T.J. Burke’s only witness to the stand was John Levi. Those in attendance learned that Levi had been sober for over 5 years, was readying himself for his duties as a Sun Dance leader, and was slated to be married to his partner of over 27 years – and the mother of their three children – in late July.
Roy’s cross-examination of Levi appeared to be based more in a curiosity for a traditional way of life than any possibility of proving that the War Chief was likely to re-offend. At one point Roy asked Levi: “What is a smudge?”
Roy also appeared interested in trying to bait Levi in strange, philosophically-based questions related to his opinions on protesting. She asked several times whether Levi though that protesting was “an absolute right.”
For the record, Freedom of Assembly is embedded in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms.
Recognizing that the Crown’s case to keep Levi incarcerated was beat, Roy then appeared to turn to the fantastic in what must be interpreted as a Hail-Mary attempt to keep the War Chief muzzled.
In asking for conditions to be applied to Levi upon his release – in what may well be a first in any Canadian court of law at any level – Roy asked that Levi “not be allowed to provide advice to any member of the community.” This request provoked guffaws and chortles of laughter from the packed courthouse.
At this point both Burke and the judge agreed that this would be in effect removing Levi’s constitutional right. No one, Crown included, seemed to know exactly how they would in fact ensure that this condition was met.
Finally, it was agreed that Levi would be released immediately, with no bail. His conditions are to keep the peace and be on good behaviour, and not be within 100 meters of SWN Resources Canada’s equipment.
Upon release, Levi was met by a cheering crowd of about 60 people.