Ontario man fined $2,500 for posting photos of Alberta judge taken at hearing for COVID-19 rule breakers
Donald Smith took screenshots during hearing for controversial Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston
An Ontario man who violated a judge's order by taking screenshots of a court hearing involving controversial Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston has been fined $2,500 for contempt of court.
"It kind of sucks that I have to pay … but I take full responsibility for my actions," said Donald Smith, who attended the virtual court hearing from Toronto, where he now lives.
Smith posted photos of Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain and Alberta Health Services lawyer Mark Jackson.
He posted the images to social media and described Germain as "crooked."
"Crooked #LiberalCalgaryJudge/Former MLA making is decision on Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston on Friday to see if Kevin gets out of jail," wrote Smith on June 28.
"I know posting this picture of the judge can land me in hot water but I really do not care because its time to expose these crooked judges for what there doing."
Smith fined, avoids jail time
During Wednesday morning's sanction hearing, Smith repeatedly apologized for what he did.
"I'm terribly sorry for taking the screenshot, I felt bad," he said.
"Mr. Smith was clearly in contempt of my court order and he made a virtue of broadcasting this contempt on social media. That's how it came to our attention," Germain told the sanction hearing Wednesday.
Smith was fined $1,000 for the contempt charge and ordered to pay $1,500 in legal costs to Alberta Health Services.
Germain said that in similar cases, a contempt of court charge would usually result in a short jail sentence. However, he said, several factors were considered, including Smith's decision to admit his guilt, take down the post and negotiate a cash settlement.
"In any other circumstance, Mr. Smith would have gone to jail for a short, sharp period of imprisonment," said the judge.
We encourage people to express negativity about the court system, but you will understand that judges are also human beings, and so when people challenge our integrity, or suggest that we're doing something unlawful or inappropriate, and if their words become hostile, it upsets us.- Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain
Germain said that while judges have "thick skins" and are open to criticism, comments suggesting they are doing something unlawful can be upsetting.
"We encourage people to express negativity about the court system," Germain said while delivering his decision.
"But you will understand that judges are also human beings, and so when people challenge our integrity, or suggest that we're doing something unlawful or inappropriate, and if their words become hostile, it upsets us," he said.
"And it also upsets judges when we make a court order that we expect to be obeyed."
Germain has been tasked with handling all Alberta pandemic-related breaches of judges' orders. The aim is to control repeat offenders who refused to abide by public health restrictions and encouraged others to follow along.
Judge to preside over hearing for Johnston
Germain is scheduled to preside over a sanction hearing Sept. 8 for Kevin J. Johnston, the Calgary mayoral candidate who is a leader in the COVID-19 denial movement. He has been found guilty of breaching several court orders related to public gatherings.
Johnston pleaded guilty to criminal harassment of an Alberta Health Services employee whose family photos he posted online along with threatening messages.
Johnston was also convicted of causing a disturbance at the Core shopping centre in downtown Calgary when he became belligerent with employees after being asked to wear a mask.
Johnston was arrested on May 26 and has served about 10 weeks, when enhanced credit is considered. Those awaiting trial and — if found guilty — sentencing, typically receive 1.5 days of credit for every one day spent in jail.
With files from Meghan Grant