A strange end to a bizarre trial
Mark Smith has been found guilty as charged and was then given an absolute discharge.
Smith had been charged with mischief more than a year ago, for allegedly defacing the municipal election signs of Kevin Breen.
Smith is the former publisher of Current who now operates a video production and graphic design company (and, it should be disclosed, someone who I have recently worked with on a project).
The police pulled out all the stops in their investigation, including sending evidence to the RCMP fingerprint lab in Ottawa for analysis.
In rendering his guilty verdict, Judge David Power pronounced Smith the "mastermind" of a "sinister" plot.
Then he gave Smith an absolute discharge, which means, in effect, that Smith does not have a criminal record.
"The judge said it was obvious that I was a solid and upstanding member of the community, that I obviously cared about my community," Smith said, in a telephone interview. "But at the same time, he felt it was clear that this wouldn't have happened without my involvement and he believed that I was the mastermind of it. He did say that, by my not testifying, that could not go towards guilt or innocence in terms of his deliberations and verdict. However, (he said) it would have been nice for me to stand up and take responsibility for my so-called actions, and that would have given him an opportunity to issue me an absolute discharge. Having said that, he ruled an absolute discharge."
Here is text from an online Telegram story, which you can read in full here.
In provincial court this morning, the 43-year-old was convicted of that crime, but following a joint submission from Crown council Tina Walsh and Smith's lawyer, Bob Buckingham, he will receive a complete discharge.
Judge David Power called the discharge a bit of a "stretch," since complete discharges are usually only handed out in cases where the accused pleads guilty and shows remorse for their crimes.
Smith has denied his involvement throughout the two-year case.
"Although there was no direct or physical evidence Mr. Smith replaced the labels on the campaign signs, he was a participant and mastermind behind this whole event," Power said in his decision, adding that the "sinister" scheme was thought out and involved other people.
Smith, who owns a graphics company, was convicted in a scheme which saw the word "service" replaced with the word "lying," in the slogan "A record of service" on Breen's sign.
Power acknowledged the fact that Smith is a businessman with no criminal record and allowed the discharge.
"All I can tell you is that's about the best you're going to get Mr. Smith," the judge said.
Though he will face no time in jail, Smith will have to pay restitution for the cost of the damages a total of $166 as well as a $50 victim surcharge. Power urged Smith to find other means of making political statements, saying "Mr. Smith, you are an intelligent person. You have to find a better way to not interfere with the democratic system."