Calgary

Kevin J. Johnston released on bail in Calgary after trying to flee to U.S.

Kevin J. Johnston, a leader in the pandemic-denying, anti-mask movement, has been released on bail and is moving to Edmonton to stay with a friend.

Johnston was arrested earlier this month in Montana after he fled Calgary avoiding his jail sentence

Disgraced former mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston was caught by American authorities earlier this month trying to flee to the United States.  (Kevin J. Johnston/Facebook)

Kevin J. Johnston has been released on bail and is moving to Edmonton.

The disgraced former mayoral candidate in Calgary was caught by American authorities earlier this month trying to flee to the United States after failing to show up to serve jail sentences in Alberta and Ontario.

On Tuesday, he was released to a friend who lives in Edmonton and must comply with conditions, including house arrest. He is also not allowed to be on the internet.

"Mr. Johnston is a handful," said prosecutor Peter Mackenzie in his submissions on Tuesday, referring to the accused's history of failing to comply with release conditions.

In the last year, Johnston has been convicted of hate crimes, three counts of contempt, criminal harassment of an AHS employee and causing a disturbance at a downtown Calgary mall when he refused to wear a mask.

Johnston 'does not respect the courts'

Johnston has been in custody since his arrest in Montana two weeks ago, which means he has since served the remaining four days on his Alberta contempt sentence but is still facing 18 months in jail in Ontario.

"Mr. Johnston does not respect traditional authority," said Mackenzie.

"He does not respect the courts, he does not respect police, he does not respect elections officials, he does not respect probation orders."

Mackenzie wasn't opposed to Johnston's release — pointing out the courts were "fast getting to point where he'd have done more remand time than he'd get if he was convicted" — but asked strict conditions be imposed.

On Tuesday, provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux agreed to release Johnston pending his charge of being unlawfully at large.

'Aspirations to trade in bitcoin'

He will live in Edmonton with his friend of one year, Andrew Lineker, who also put up $2,500 to secure Johnston's release. 

"We're pretty much joined at the hips," said Lineker when asked about monitoring Johnston. "I would not let Mr. Johnston out of my sight."

Defence lawyer Ian McCuaig tried to fight the no-internet condition for his client, who he argued has "aspirations to trade in bitcoin."

But Mackenzie pointed out that Johnston would not be able to pursue business interests had he shown up to serve his 18-month Ontario sentence as was legally required for him to do on Jan. 4. 

He also raised concerns about Johnston's previous fundraising efforts and his "very aggressive" video posts. 

Past trouble with the law 

Johnston has been in a host of legal trouble in four provinces over the past year.

Most recently, he was caught trying to cross the Saskatchewan border on foot into Montana in temperatures that were potentially deadly. 

In September, Johnston pleaded guilty to a hate crime in Ontario for numerous anti-Muslim online posts in 2017.

A leader in the pandemic-denying, anti-mask movement, Johnston was found guilty on two counts of contempt in Alberta for what a Calgary judge described as "out of control" behaviour in inciting followers to defy public health restrictions.

For that, Johnston was sentenced to 40 days in jail to be served on weekends, the last four days of which he failed to show up for. 

Threats to AHS employee

In July he pleaded guilty to criminal harassment for targeting an AHS employee who was tasked with enforcing public health measures. He posted photos of the woman and her family online and threatened to show up at her home. 

The same month, Johnston was also convicted of causing a disturbance at the Core shopping centre when he became belligerent with employees after being asked to wear a mask.

At the time of his pleas, Johnston had served about 10 weeks in jail, and with enhanced credit, prosecutors proposed and the judge accepted a time-served sentence.

He was, and continues to be, subjected to a nine-month probation order. 

In October, Johnston was handed an 18-month sentence for a conviction of civil contempt handed down after he continued to post racist, hateful statements about a Muslim restaurant owner in Toronto. 

Johnston never turned up to begin serving that sentence 

Johnston is also facing court matters in Drumheller, Alta., for his antics at anti-mask protests there, including a charge of failing to appear for court.

He also has an outstanding assault charge in B.C.

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