A Calgary police officer on trial for lying in divorce-related court documents has been found not guilty by a judge who ruled both the constable and his ex-wife had become "obsessed" with their litigation.
Const. Joe Barton was facing three perjury counts connected to his years-long court battle with his ex-wife.
"To say the post-separation relationship was acrimonious would be polite understatement," said provincial court Judge Harry Van Harten in delivering his decision.
"People engaged in protracted matrimonial disputes can become obsessed with the litigation and can act irrationally and that's what happened here."
100 calls to RCMP
Barton and his ex, Nikaela Lutzer, separated in 2017 and have been in a court battle involving about 60 appearances ever since.
The pair have also made more than 100 calls to RCMP, including one which is connected to Barton's perjury charges.
In February 2019, Lutzer attempted to serve Barton with documents requiring him to be in court the next month.
RCMP became involved and brought the paperwork inside Barton's home. And although video evidence shows otherwise, he testified he did not believe he'd been served and thought the officers had taken the documents with them when they left.
Barton failed to show up for the March appearance and $500 in costs were awarded to Lutzer.
Barton pushed back, writing a letter to the judge claiming he'd never been served and took steps to have his ex-wife found in contempt of court.
In the following months, Barton swore in affidavits filed in court that he did not receive the documents.
Van Harten said he had reasonable doubt as to whether Barton believed what he swore to was accurate.
"Ultimately in my view, the accused did not intend to mislead the court in his affidavits and testimony," said the judge.
The actions by both Lutzer and Barton related to the case, said Van Harten, was "just an example of the horrible relationship between these two people."
Disciplinary hearing next week
The judge called the years-long battle "absurd" and pointed out that couples involved in similar litigation suffer emotionally and financially, as do any children.
In recent weeks, Barton was convicted of four Police Act offences for misconduct and deceit involving illegal searches he did connected to his divorce and lies he told in a statement he submitted as part of the investigation.
Much like in the criminal case, in Barton's disciplinary hearing, presiding officer Paul Manuel found Barton had acted "to create some form of leverage or inflict some form of harm or consequence to [his ex-wife]."
A disciplinary hearing will take place next week.
In 2019, Barton was disciplined by CPS, losing a week's worth of pay for illegally searching his ex-wife's name using internal police databases.
He is currently suspended without pay from CPS.