Anti-shale gas protesters found guilty of weapons charges
Germain Junior Breau of N.B., and Aaron Francis of N.S., were facing combined 17 charges
Two anti-shale gas protesters charged in connection with a violent clash with police near Rexton last fall have been found guilty of some of the charges against them, and not guilty of others.
Germain Junior Breau of Upper Rexton, N.B., and Aaron Francis of Eskasoni, N.S., were tried together on numerous firearm and assault-related charges.
"Mr. Breau's deliberate action in holding the rifle as he did while facing the officers, even though he may not have been aiming the rifle at them, in my view, is encompassed in the definition of pointing a firearm," said Judge R. Leslie Jackson.
He found Breau not guilty, however, of five counts of assaulting police officers with a firearm.
Francis was also convicted of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Jackson said it was "clear from the evidence" that Francis had possession of an Enfield rifle at various periods of time, but noted his possession was of limited duration and that he pointed it at the ground, not at anyone.
He was found not guilty of throwing Molotov cocktails, intent to do bodily harm by causing an explosive device to explode, possession of explosives while prohibited to do so, and committing an offence while having his face masked.
"While I am inclined to believe that Mr. Francis may have indeed been the thrower, I cannot say that I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt," said Jackson.
Although two police officers had identified Francis as the person they saw throwing Molotov cocktails, their observation "was of relatively brief duration, in limited or low light conditions, and during a very volatile and stressful situation."
"Similarly, Const. Shannon made a first set of notes without any detail as to the thrower saying only 'a person from the camo crowd' and later wrote some 18 pages of further notes without detailed description of Mr. Francis," he said.
" I do not suggest for a moment that either officer is attempting to deceive or mislead the court, I am sure that they believe what they said, however, it is exactly that quality which renders eye-witness identification dangerous to rely on."
Breau had previously pleaded guilty to uttering threats against a police officer, careless use of a firearm, and breach of probation.
Francis had previously pleaded guilty to to assaulting a police officer, two counts of obstructing a police officer, careless use of a firearm, possessing a firearm while prohibited to do so, and breaching a court order. He also pleaded guilty to assault against a correctional officer while being held in custody and breaching a court order.
Both men remain remanded in custody until a sentencing hearing on July 25 at 10 a.m.
An additional charge against Breau of obstruction a police officer, which the judge said he had mistakenly forgotten to address, will be dealt with at that time.
The verdict was supposed to be handed down last Thursday, but was postponed because of a power outage caused by an osprey's nest in Fredericton.
The protest on Route 134 near Rexton on Oct. 17, 2013 turned violent when police moved in to enforce a court injunction that prohibited protesters from interfering with the seismic exploration work of SWN Resources Canada.
About 40 people were arrested that day and six RCMP vehicles were destroyed by fire.
The trial for Breau and Francis had been on and off since it started in March.