The judge overseeing the obstruction trial of internet blogger Charles LeBlanc criticized the prosecution's case in open court and even wondered aloud why LeBlanc was arrested in the first place.
Judge William McCarroll stopped short of dismissing the case Tuesday, but asked several pointed questions of the Crown, and suggested police officers may have acted inappropriately.
McCarroll studied CBC videotape of LeBlanc's arrest outside a business conference in Saint John last June. The video shows LeBlanc taking digital photos of a rowdy protest outside conference doors, and caught three Saint John police officers pinning him to the ground while he shouted out that he was taking pictures for his internet website. He was later charged with obstruction of justice.
In court, the judge said it appeared that LeBlanc was just off to the side taking pictures when a police officer grabbed him.
"The video speaks for itself. It's very strong evidence, that video," McCarroll said. "He's taking pictures. The next thing is, you know, he's down on the ground with three officers on him."
Police had testified earlier in the week that LeBlanc resisted during his arrest, but McCarroll held up a picture of the police walking LeBlanc peacefully across the lobby of the conference centre. "This doesn't look to melike someone who is resisting arrest."
Police testimony 'inconsistent'
McCarrollsaid police testimony on Monday and Tuesday morning was inconsistent with what he saw on the videotape, and he wondered out loudwhy police ignored themaskedman standing beside LeBlancwho was an obvious protester.
Crown prosecutor Catherine McNally suggested police arrested LeBlanc because they "didn't recognize him as a media person."
McCarroll replied the officers must have believed he was some sort of journalist, because they admitted to using his blog to get information about the conference in the days prior to his arrest. "The police went to his blogsite to get information," he said.
Tuesday morning, Saint John police admitted to visiting LeBlanc's blog site to obtain information on the Atlantica conference in the days before the event, even though they eventually arrested him partly because they didn't consider him a legitimate journalist.
Sgt. Bruce Connell testified Tuesday that police were concerned about planned demonstrations at the conference, heldlast June, and visited LeBlanc's website to get more information.
LeBlanc had written about plans by some opponents to attend the business conference and protest, a report police found useful enough to download and discuss.
"You did find some information there, useful to you," asked LeBlanc's lawyer, Harold Doherty, during testimony in the Saint John courtroom.
"Yes, absolutely," replied Connell.
Too 'scruffy' to be a reporter
The arresting officer, Sgt. John Parks, testified Monday that he didn't consider LeBlanc to be a legitimate reporter because he appeared "scruffy" and had an unprofessional-looking digital camera. Parks also admitted to deleting a photo of himself from LeBlanc's camera.
Doherty says LeBlanc did not obstruct justice during the protest, and was just doing his job as a journalist. He says the officers' actions in deleting pictures from LeBlanc's camera deprive him of a full and fair defence because they would show precisely where LeBlanc was standing and what he was doing in the minutesbefore his arrest.
Doherty says freedom of the press should extend to all journalists, not just those employed with large media organizations.
LeBlanc says Saint John police deleted dozens of photos, but Parks admittedto deleting only one of himself from the camera.
Parks also testified Monday that he had no idea what a blog or blogger was, even though his colleague admitted Tuesday to using LeBlanc's website as a source of information.
Defence attorney Harold Doherty had intended to call witnesses Tuesday afternoon, but changed his mind after the judge's barrage of questions and comments criticizing the Crown. A verdict in the case is expected Friday.