Crime, Published Articles

Taxi assault nets six years in prison

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A man who pled guilty to kidnapping a Medicine Hat cab driver and sexually assaulting her before driving to Calgary and abandoning her was sentenced Friday to six years imprisonment.

Shaun Thomas Baldhead, 29, appeared from the prisoner’s box at his sentencing at Medicine Hat Provincial Court.

“What you were involved in that night from a societal perspective is reprehensible,” Judge Eric Brooks said in his ruling. “I don’t think there are very many people who can excuse that.”

With credit for time served, Baldhead will spent 1,191 days in prison, or 3.26 years.

According to the agreed statement of facts, on Nov. 24, 2016 around 10 p.m., Baldhead approached the victim’s taxi posing as a fare.

He asked if she could pull over at a bank so he could withdraw money.

When he returned to the vehicle, he got into the back seat and told her he had a gun before taking over the taxi.

He then parked in the Riverside neighbourhood, forcing the victim to perform oral sex on him.

Baldhead then drove the victim to Calgary, stopping for gas briefly in Brooks.

He told her that if she moved, he would shoot the attendant.

Baldhead also used the victim’s cell phone to make multiple calls, threatening to murder her family if she told anyone about the kidnapping and sexual assault.

Around 2 a.m. he dropped the victim off in the middle of Calgary.

After she provided a detailed description of Baldhead to Calgary police, including a tattoo on his left cheek, the accused was found on a Calgary Transit bus.

He was on the bus because he had left the cab in a field, setting it on fire from the inside.

The victim needed to take four months off work as a result from the trauma she endured.

Brooks noted how the totalled vehicle was the victim’s “sole source of income.”

During the sentencing submissions in April, the Crown requested six to eight years, later asking for nine.

Defence lawyer Robin McIntyre requested four years and eight months.

As aggravating factors, Brooks cited the victim’s vulnerability as a 50-year-old working grandmother, the fact the kidnapping took place over a span of four hours and that he threatened to shoot her twice.

Although Baldhead is young, “he is quite mature with regard to his relationship to the court system,” Brooks noted.

He cited as mitigating factors Baldhead’s guilty plea, which spared the victim of having to re-live her trauma through cross-examination, his co-operation with police and the Gladue report that was prepared for him as an aboriginal offender, which outlines a background Brooks called “tragic beyond description” and “a recipe for disaster.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Baldhead is required to pay $820 restitution for the taxi’s ticketing and towing in Calgary.

“It is difficult for me to imagine what she went through that night,” Brooks said, referring to the victim.

After she presented her victim impact statement to the court in July, Baldhead expressed his remorse, apologizing to the victim.

“I hope (it was) sincere,” Brooks concluded Friday.

Crime, Published Articles

Man gets one year for assault on ex-girlfriend

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A man with an extensive criminal record pled guilty Friday to physically abusing his ex-girlfriend over a span of five months, receiving a sentence of one year in jail.

Matthew Pearton appeared in person as a prisoner at the Court of Queen’s Bench, where he pled guilty to assault but not guilty to sexual assault.

The sexual assault charge was stayed by the Crown.

According to a joint submission of facts, police were called to the victim’s residence on April 5, 2017, to check on her well-being.

When they arrived, the victim became emotional, telling the police Pearton was regularly pinching and hitting her without provocation.

He also occasionally bit her on her breasts and elsewhere.

Pearton would sometimes hold her down on the ground, which the Crown said is “not an assault, but part of the context.”

Police took pictures of bruises on her arms, breast and legs.

When they were in a relationship, which began in December 2016, the accused became controlling, keeping the victim’s money and deciding when to give it to her, as well as forbidding her from seeing friends.

Although there was no official victim impact statement, the prosecutor spoke on her behalf.

“She continues to be terrified of the accused,” Crown prosecutor Jase Cowan said, adding that she fears for the safety of her young children.

Defence lawyer Marc Crarer said his client suffers from “cognitive difficulties … in the intellectually deficient range.”

He said Pearton has not had “a very positive experience” being born and raised in Medicine Hat.

The accused is currently in a new relationship, which by contrast Crarer called a “really positive” experience.

He has a child with his new girlfriend, who resides with Pearton and his mother in Roblin, Man.

“He’s made up his mind that once he’s released he’ll return to Manitoba,” said Crarer.

Pearton’s substantial criminal record began in 2016, when he was fined for theft under $5,000 and a breach of bail conditions.

Later that year, he was fined for mischief.

Earlier this year, Pearton was found guilty of uttering threats and breaching a no-contact order with the same victim, for which he was sentenced to jail time with probation.

In their joint submission for the assault charge, the Crown and defence requested another year in jail, as well as another year probation.

“This is a true quid pro quo, given the charges the Crown isn’t pursuing,” the prosecutor said, referring to the stayed sexual assault charge.

“The conduct he’s admitted to is serious enough to warrant the sentence proposed,” added Crarer.

Justice William Tilleman agreed with the joint submission, citing the “principles of proportionality.”

Pearton will go to jail for 354 days, due to credit for 11 days time served, and will serve probation for a year after.

He will also be forbidden from communicating with the victim or any witnesses and cannot attend within two blocks of the victim’s home or workplace.

The accused declined comment when asked by the judge if he wanted to address the court.

Crime, Published Articles

Family of four former Hatters reported missing from Surrey

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A family of four originally from Medicine Hat were declared missing from Surrey on Tuesday evening, according to the local RCMP detachment.

The Anderson family was reported missing to the Surrey RCMP by another family member.

Missing are Sheldon, the father, a 43-year-old who is about 5-foot-10, weighing about 190 pounds with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes; Nona, the mother, 45, who is about 5-foot-9, with a medium build and long blonde hair; Chanel, their 13-year-old daughter, who’s approximately 5 feet, with a thin build and long blonde hair; and daughter Mariah, 10, about 4 feet with a thin build and long blonde hair.

Their names all appear in a Medicine Hat News obituary published in 2014 for Sheldon’s step-father Maurice Cote.

It’s unclear when they moved to Surrey.

They were last seen on Sept. 9, and contacted Sept. 10 around 9 p.m. by a relative.

Their vehicle — a 2002 tan-coloured Toyota Sienna mini-van with Alberta licence plate BGZ-2221 — was last seen Sept. 11 leaving the parking garage of their Surrey home.

“They have not been seen or heard from since,” read a Surrey RCMP news release.

“Investigators believe they could possibly be driving to Alberta.”

The Surrey RCMP was unable to comment by press time on this suspicion.

The release also noted the family frequently visits Minoru Park in nearby Richmond.

Medicine Hat Police Service Insp. Joe West says the case is on their radar and they’re working together with the Surrey RCMP “to ensure we cover all the bases.”

This could involve MHPS interviewing local relatives, he added.

“We got a tip from the public that the family may live here and once we knew that, we contacted the Surrey RCMP and will offer any assistance,” said West.

Anyone with further information about the Andersons’ whereabouts is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, MHPS at 403-529-8481, or anonymously via CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Judge says Charter challenge pointless for now since summer jobs program over

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A challenge to the Canadian government summer jobs program’s mandatory attestation in favour of abortion rights was declared “moot” Wednesday by a justice at Medicine Hat’s Court of the Queen’s Bench.

Justice William Tilleman said since the program — intended to provide students with seasonal employment — was for the summer of 2018, there’s no reason to litigate after the fact.

“The 2018 program is not perennial,” he said, adding that the program’s controversial criteria might not be in place next year.

Applicants Reah Lynne and William Anderson of Brooks wanted to hire a summer student for their business — A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services — but refused to affirm their support for abortion rights.

The Andersons, with the assistance of the conservative Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, launched a Charter challenge in Medicine Hat, which the federal Crown argued is not an appropriate venue for a claim against it.

“This is an interesting case,” said Tilleman. “It’s a case of jurisdiction.”

However, “2018 is over (for the program’s purposes),” he added.

According to a news release from the JCCF, the Andersons submitted the grant application on Jan. 24, and were rejected Feb. 9.

Service Canada explicitly said the rejection was a result of their not checking the box next to the attestation.

According to the JCCF, this mandatory proclamation in exchange for government funding violates the freedoms of conscience and expression outlined in the Charter.

If the program goes forward next year with the same mandatory attestation, Tilleman said he wants to hear the case.

“I would request the feds notify us as soon as possible if they go forward with 2019,” he said.

Deb Babiuk-Gibson, a lawyer representing the Government of Canada, said the matter should be heard in federal court if the plaintiffs want to proceed.

Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the JCCF who’s representing the Andersons, told reporters the federal government is imposing an ideological litmus test on summer job grant program applicants, which is unfair to both his clients and the student they could have hired.

“The Canada Summer Jobs Program exists to provide practical life skills to some student who needs them, so there’s a student who missed out on the basis of the federal government’s decision that everyone has to agree with it, or respect their position, on reproductive rights,” said Cameron.

He called the attestation “coercive and unfair, totalitarian and biased.”

There are many Canadians who don’t regard abortion as a fundamental right, Cameron added.

“It’s a big country and people have diverse views on the subject of abortion. According to the Constitution, Canadians still have a right to have their own opinions.”

Cameron wouldn’t comment on whether his clients suffered any monetary losses as a result of not receiving the grant, but confirmed they are not looking for any financial restitution.

“We’re not seeking any damages,” he said. “What we’re seeking is for the courts to uphold the constitutional rights of private citizens.”

Canadian Politics (Federal), Published Articles

Bernier departure shows inner issues, but shouldn’t threaten the party: political instructor

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

Medicine Hat College political scientist Jim Groom says Maxime Bernier’s abrupt departure from the Conservative Party of Canada is reflective of a clear rift within the party ranks.

At the same time, it’s unclear how deep the divisions within the party run, he added.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner Conservative MP Glen Motz previously told the News that Bernier’s “little stunt he tried to pull … had zero impact except to unify the party.”

Groom says there must be some degree of dissension within the party ranks due to Bernier’s departure and the policy issues he raised.

“It will unite a certain faction, but it’s got to be a little draining on some of the folks,” he said. “It’s sour grapes on his part, but he does have supporters.”

Bernier was narrowly defeated in last year’s leadership race by leader Andrew Scheer, leading until the final ballot was cast.

Groom said it’s unusual that when Bernier announced he was leaving the party, none of the Tories’ sitting MPs joined him.

“It was a one-man show,” he said.

It’s understandable for the party to want to keep its internal feuding “under the carpet,” Groom added.

“Division has just destroyed the Conservative party time and time again in the past. They all recognize that and have seen it occur in many manifestations.”

He cited the split between the federal PC and Reform parties, which helped the Liberals retain government from 1993-2006, but acknowledged this rift is nowhere near as large.

“They’ve always had a diversity between the middle-of-the-road conservatives and the social conservatives,” said Groom. “I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to patch that up to an extent, because it’s the social conservatives that the rest of Canada doesn’t want necessarily.”

One of Bernier’s pet issues — phasing out supply management subsidies to dairy farmers — didn’t make it the floor at the August Conservative convention in Halifax, although it was proposed.

“The whole issue is contentious, because they know there are a lot of things on the table for it,” Groom said, referring to the ongoing NAFTA negotiations, where U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded Canada gut supply management.

Also, since Scheer won the leadership race due to significant support from the dairy farmer lobby, which opposes Bernier’s plans, it’s in Scheer’s political interest not to rock that boat.

“He is in no position to even suggest they’re going to bring up supply management as an issue,” said Groom.

He says it would be advantageous for the party to discuss the issue, since it’s been such a prominent topic in conservative politics of late, but the party doesn’t want to feed the perception that it’s divided.

“Rip the scab off again and have another look,” Groom advised.

Otherwise, the party risks alienating its grassroots supporters, he added.

“Is it a divided party?” Groom asked. “Every party’s got a certain amount of contention within its grassroots.”

But Groom says it’s unlikely Bernier’s yet-to-be-established party will make much of a dent in Conservative support in 2019, nor is he sure Bernier will win his Beauce, Que., seat.

“He’s an irritant, for sure,” he said. “But I don’t think he’s going to be effective enough to rock the boat to the extent where we have a growth operation.”

Crime, Published Articles

135 days in jail for man guilty of publishing nude photos of his ex

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A man who pled guilty to publishing an indecent picture of his ex-girlfriend without her permission and assaulting her, as well as causing mischief and failing to stop at the scene of an accident from a separate incident, received a 135-day jail sentence and $1,500 in fines.

Justin Kleinsasser, who has the word “Grace” tattooed on his neck, appeared at Medicine Hat Provincial Court in person Thursday.

With 75 days in jail served already, Kleinsasser will serve the remaining 60 intermittently on weekends, beginning Sept. 15. He will have six months to pay the fines.

According to a joint submission of facts, on July 14, 2015, the victim found nude photos on the accused’s cellphone, which had been uploaded to a sexual website without her permission.

The week prior — on July 5 — Kleinsasser and the victim got into an altercation near the front door of their residence in Lethbridge.

He pulled her outside by her shoulder in her underwear and locked the door.

After repeated knocking, Kleinsasser let her back in. She had bruises on her left upper arm and shoulder areas.

Defence lawyer Lyndon Heidinger said the victim was twice Kleinsasser’s age and introduced him to drugs, namely crack and cocaine.

“He obviously didn’t handle that well,” said Heidinger.

On Dec. 11, 2015, Kleinsasser called the Fort Macleod RCMP to report a stolen vehicle, a 2010 Dodge Ram 1500.

“That was a false stolen vehicle he called in,” said the Crown prosecutor.

The accused was in the truck he reported stolen, which he drove into a field.

He failed to appear in court on July 26 and 27, 2016.

Kleinsasser also pled guilty to an attempt to escape custody after police escorted him to the hospital on Nov. 23, 2017, and he attempted to escape from the waiting room.

His only prior criminal record is for failure to attend court, for which he received five days in jail.

Kleinsasser was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the publishing indecent material and assault charges, 30 days for the mischief charge, 15 days for the attempt to escape custody, an $1,000 fine for refusing to stop at the scene of an accident and $250 for each failure to appear in court.

In addition to the jail time and fines, Kleinsasser is prohibited from going within two blocks of his ex-girlfriend’s residence and is prohibited from using the Internet, except for a GPS to get to and from work.