Charles LeBlanc says he punched busker in self-defence

Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc admitted during his assault trial on Wednesday that he punched a busker during a confrontation in 2014, but said he did so in self-defence.

Complainant Andrew Spencer alleges he was sucker punched

Charles LeBlanc stood trial in Fredericton provincial court Wednesday on a summary conviction charge of assault stemming from an alleged incident in July 2014. (CBC)

Fredericton blogger Charles LeBlanc admitted during his assault trial on Wednesday that he punched a busker during a confrontation in 2014, but said he did so in self-defence.

He had been attacked by a panhandler a few weeks before and was worried, he testified.

The complainant, Andrew Spencer, suggested to the court it was a sucker punch.

But a Crown witness testified it was Spencer who initiated the encounter and was being aggressive and "provocative" toward the controversial blogger.

Provincial court Judge Julian Dickson has reserved decision until June 29 at 1:30 p.m.

LeBlanc is charged with summary assault, stemming from the incident that occurred in the city's downtown area on July 3, 2014.

Spencer testified he ran into LeBlanc at the corner of King and Carleton streets that afternoon and confronted him about interviewing a child, against the parent's wishes.

Spencer said he told LeBlanc, "Even Fox News doesn't stoop that low."

He said LeBlanc replied, "Hit me, hit me, you're on drugs. Where are the cops when you need them?'"

Busker Andrew Spencer alleges he was assaulted by blogger Charles LeBlanc. (CBC)
Spencer said LeBlanc was jumping around and screaming like a "rabid badger."

After two or three minutes, Spencer said he decided to leave.

"I started to turn, and that's when he nailed me," said Spencer.

He said the punch to the jaw knocked him down.

Spencer then went to the police station and provided a statement to police about the incident.

Refused to leave

The second Crown witness, Terry Wishart, testified he was chatting with LeBlanc when Spencer started "yelling at Mr. LeBlanc across the street."

Wishart said LeBlanc was taken aback and appeared puzzled about what Spencer was talking about.

LeBlanc repeatedly asked Spencer to leave, but he didn't, said Wishart.

Spencer then made a motion to touch Mr. LeBlanc, Wishart testified, saying in his recollection he reached for LeBlanc's baseball hat.

The Crown asked if Wishart had mentioned that previously when LeBlanc videotaped an interview of him after the incident. Wishart said he couldn't recall.

During cross-examination, Wishart said he was afraid Spencer was going to hit LeBlanc.

Reacted to arm thrust

LeBlanc told the court he asked Spencer to move several times, but that Spencer just kept shouting at him with his fists clenched.

LeBlanc said he asked Wishart to hold his sunglasses for him, then told Spencer, "Go ahead, take a swing, asshole."

He said Spencer reached for him and his baseball hat went flying. That's when he reacted and punched him, he said.

Spencer fell to the ground, got up and then said, "That's all you got?" LeBlanc recounted.

Crown prosecutor Sebastien Michaud asked LeBlanc if he could have just turned around and walked away.

LeBlanc said after being attacked just a few weeks earlier, he didn't want to turn his back on Spencer. He had to focus on the angry individual in front of him, he said.

Crowd-funded lawyer

LeBlanc initially represented himself on the charge but has raised money through crowd-funding to hire lawyer Mathieu Boutet from Moncton.

The Miramichi Police Force handled the investigation due to LeBlanc's acrimonious relationship with the Fredericton Police Force.

LeBlanc, who writes a blog on politics and social justice issues, has had repeated run-ins with the Fredericton police.

In 2012, LeBlanc faced criminal libel charges for allegedly damaging the reputation of a Fredericton police officer in a 2011 blog post.

The Office of the Attorney General later stopped proceedings against LeBlanc because that section of the Criminal Code had been deemed unconstitutional in other jurisdictions.

With files from Catherine Harrop