Calgary

Judge bans media access to video of confrontation between MLA Jason Nixon and wildlife officer

A provincial judge has ruled that video evidence from an old trial, showing a confrontation between UCP MLA Jason Nixon and an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer, cannot be released to the media.

Video was evidence in 2011 trial into obstruction of justice and uttering threats

Jason Nixon speaks to reporters in Edmonton during the election campaign regarding allegations made by Allison Gentry. (Michael Bedard/CBC)

A provincial judge has ruled that video evidence from an old trial, showing a confrontation between UCP MLA Jason Nixon and an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer, cannot be released to the media.

The video footage was originally played at Nixon's 2011 trial into obstruction of justice and threatening the officer. He was found not guilty on both counts.

In making her decision, Judge Marlene Graham cited the Youth Criminal Justice Act as the reason for withholding the tape, due to the involvement of a young person in the incident.

But the judge spent much of her time talking about the possible impact on Nixon's reputation.

Graham noted that Nixon was re-elected as an MLA on Tuesday and that he held a position of power within the UCP while in opposition.

"The risk of harm and prejudice to Mr. Nixon outweighs any interest that the public might have in seeing this DVD," she told court.

Graham herself was a Progressive Conservative MLA from 1997 to 2004 in the riding of Calgary-Lougheed, the current riding of UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

Fight for the footage

It's the latest step in a legal battle that has played out for more than a year.

The video in question is of a conversation between Nixon and wildlife officer Adam Mirus.

A dashcam on Mirus's vehicle caught the ensuing conversation — that's the recording Nixon doesn't want released.

Graham, who oversaw Nixon's original trial, first called for a hearing into the release of the video in March 2018, but decided on Jan. 9 to put off a decision on release of the footage until Wednesday.

A freelance journalist, Britton Ledingham, has been trying to get the footage released since December 2017.

"The only purpose Mr. Ledingham has is to malign Mr. Nixon's character and cause damage to his reputation as a public person," said Graham on Wednesday.

The story of the video and the trial start in 2009, when rancher Allison Gentry alleges she found men dragging a shot deer from her private property.

Gentry says Nixon was sitting in a truck on the side of the road when she pulled up, yelled that hunting wasn't allowed and started taking pictures.

She claims Nixon threatened her, an account that was backed up by her neighbour, Donna Maynes, who arrived on the scene a short time later. Nixon was charged with assault, a charge that was later withdrawn after he entered into a peace bond in 2011.

The peace bond

A peace bond is a court order that requires an accused person to comply with conditions for a specific amount of time, often a 12-month period. In this case, Nixon promised to stay away from Gentry's property.

It is an admission that the complainant had reason to fear the accused.

Nixon denies Gentry's allegations and provided letters of corroboration from witnesses Earl Anderson and John Garvey when the story surfaced during the recent election campaign.

Nixon has said signing the peace bond was not an admission of guilt.

Nixon's lawyer, Steven Dollansky, sent a letter to CBC News in January that says "we wish to make clear that Mr. Nixon did not commit an assault as alleged by Ms. Gentry. Each of the other witnesses who were present that day have stated that Mr. Nixon did not attempt to grab Ms. Gentry's cellphone and did not threaten her. Statements made by Ms. Gentry to the contrary are defamatory, malicious, and false."

About the Author

Meghan Grant and Drew Anderson are journalists with CBC Calgary. You can reach them in confidence at: meghan.grant@cbc.ca and drew.anderson@cbc.ca