Saskatchewan

Sask. man acquitted of threatening to shoot Trudeau after court hears 'take a shot' meant punch

A Saskatchewan man accused of threatening to shoot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and blow up Canada's Parliament buildings earlier this year has been acquitted.

Judge said there was reasonable doubt the accused really intended threats

The centre block of the Parliament Buildings is shown in 2016. A Saskatchewan man accused of threatening to shoot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and blow up the Parliament Buildings has been acquitted. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A Saskatchewan man accused of threatening to shoot Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and blow up Canada's Parliament buildings has been acquitted.

David Petersen, 53, faced a charge of uttering threats stemming from a phone conversation with a government worker on Feb. 12, 2019.

Judge Hugh Harradence told Nipawin provincial court on Tuesday that he had reasonable doubt Petersen uttered the threats with intention.

Harradence said he believed the employee who took the call was sincere in trying to recall the conversation, but no recording or notes were taken.

Petersen, who elected to defend himself, argued the whole case stemmed from a foolish conversation with someone he didn't know.

Last March, he intended to plead guilty to get the charges out of the way.

But Judge Inez Cardinal wouldn't accept Petersen's plea after he said he didn't believe he was guilty.

"I was scared as hell and I didn't know what to expect," Petersen said outside court Tuesday about the acquittal.

"I wasn't trying to guess ahead of anything, but I'm not surprised."

Depressed and distraught

Paul Sveinson, a collection content officer for the Canada Revenue Agency, testified last week that he and Petersen talked about 10 times between October 2018 and the Feb. 12 call. He said Petersen sounded depressed and distraught during the last call, and brought up Trudeau's name after no previous mentions of politics.

Sveinson recalled Petersen's exact words as being: "Between you and me, I'd like to take a shot at Trudeau," and, "I don't want to be the guy that goes and blows up Parliament." Sveinson said the sad, quick demeanour of Petersen's voice caused him concern for Petersen's well-being. Sveinson then contacted a department manager.

Sveinson also testified the call had initially been about Petersen's life insurance, and that caused Sveinson to believe it was a suicide call.

Harradence said there was a hole in the evidence about how Trudeau and the Parliament Buildings came into conversation.

"Context is critical," Harradence said.

The trial also saw video of Const. Tanner Gillies from the Saskatchewan National Security Enforcement Section interviewing Petersen.

Petersen told Gillies during the interview the "take a shot" comment meant he would punch Trudeau in the nose if he was in front of him, not shoot him. He said he wouldn't shoot Trudeau due to a moral belief that killing another human is wrong.

Gillies said in court that while Petersen appeared stressed and was sober, he didn't think he was a threat to Trudeau.