Toronto man charged after posting photo of Alberta judge taken during court hearing for COVID-19 rule breakers

·3 min read
An Alberta court has charged Donald Smith of Toronto with contempt of court after photos of an Alberta judge who recently convicted four anti-mask, COVID-19-denying men were posted online. The images were taken during virtual court hearings. (Donald Smith/YouTube - image credit)
An Alberta court has charged Donald Smith of Toronto with contempt of court after photos of an Alberta judge who recently convicted four anti-mask, COVID-19-denying men were posted online. The images were taken during virtual court hearings. (Donald Smith/YouTube - image credit)

Charges have been laid against a Toronto man for posting photos of the Alberta judge who recently convicted four anti-mask, COVID-19-denying men who repeatedly breached public health restrictions and judges' orders.

This is the second-known breach of judges' privacy in as many weeks. It follows news earlier this month that former Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms president John Carpay, who is now on indefinite leave, hired a private investigator to follow Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal — who is presiding over a court challenge related to the province's lockdown measures — to his home and cottage.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain has been tasked with handling all Alberta pandemic-related breaches of judges' orders. The aim is to control repeat offenders who refused to abide by public health restrictions and encouraged others to follow along.

Donald Smith, an anti-mask, pandemic-denying supporter of Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston, admitted in court Tuesday that he took pictures of Germain as well as Alberta Health Services (AHS) lawyer Mark Jackson.

He was charged with contempt of court.

Smith calls judge 'crooked'

The images were screen grabbed during virtual court hearings hosted on WebEx, video-conferencing software similar to Zoom. At the beginning of all hearings, Germain issued warnings that no images or recordings were to be captured during the court sessions.

"Crooked #LiberalCalgaryJudge/Former MLA making is decision on Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston on Friday to see if Kevin gets out of jail," wrote Smith on June 28.

"I know posting this picture of the judge can land me in hot water but I really do not care because its time to expose these crooked judges for what there doing."

The contempt charges are for both taking and posting the photos and for allegedly recording the proceedings and posting non-certified transcriptions.

Smith, who was present for Tuesday's WebEx hearing, apologized for his conduct.

"It will never, never, never happen again, and you've got my word on that," he said.

"I'm terribly sorry. What I did was wrong, it will never happen again."

Jail time possible, warns judge

Smith said he would be willing to pay a fine, but Germain warned him he could be looking at jail time and encouraged the Ontario man to hire a lawyer.

Germain also noted that changes had been made to WebEx video court hearings, calling them the "Donald Smith security enhancements."

Smith is described as an "associate" of disgraced Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston, who earlier this month pleaded guilty to criminal harassment of an AHS employee.

Johnston posted the woman's family photos on his social media channels along with threatening messages.

Contempt sentences delayed

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

Johnston is being sued by AHS and also faces criminal charges in B.C. and Ontario.

In 2019, an Ontario judge issued a ruling in a libel suit filed against Johnston, calling his behaviours a "loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion," after he made Islamophobic comments against a Muslim man.

Court was in session Tuesday to deal with sentencing submissions for Johnston, pastor Art Pawlowski and his brother Dawid, as well as Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott, found guilty of contempt for breaking various orders related to promoting gatherings against public health restrictions.

Lawyers for all of the men asked for adjournments and will now make submissions next month.

AHS has indicated it plans to seek jail sentences and recovery of costs.

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