Chilliwack judge finds witness testimony in torture case leads to reasonable doubt

Two men acquitted as victim who allegedly had genitals pepper-sprayed proved unreliable

This story originally appeared in the March 3, 2016 edition of the Chilliwack Times

Two Chilliwack drug dealers were acquitted by a provincial court judge Wednesday of charges they tortured and beat a local cocaine-addicted man in September 2014.

Judge Don Gardner said he was “troubled” about the contradictory evidence given by the two main witnesses to the allegations of unlawful confinement and extortion against Trevor Egilson and Jonathon Olson.

The pair were accused of trying to extort $6,000 out of Paul Edwards, pepper-spraying his genitals, punching him in the face breaking his orbital bone, using a propane torch on his leg and threatening other violence.

The court heard Edwards had a long-standing addiction to cocaine, and his testimony left Gardner with questions, particularly because the second supposed victim in the case, Melissa Kennedy, never admitted she was unlawfully confined or that she saw Edwards beaten. She even testified that Egilson and Olson were “gentlemen” during the prolonged incident. The Crown’s theory was that Edwards dabbled in small drug sales for the two higher-level dealers, a move that “started well and ended badly,” according to Crown counsel Henry Waldock, with Edwards owing the men money, which led to the supposed confinement and extortion.

The defence said the case should never have even been prosecuted given holes in the Crown’s case, and that Edwards was amid a 60-hour cocaine induced bender.

“[Mr. Edwards] was a liar, an addict, a thief and a manipulator,” Olson’s lawyer David Donnelly told the court. During the trial in March of 2015, defence argued that Edwards hatched a plan to frame Olson and Egilson after he inadvertently crossed another group of local drug dealers.

“Mr. Edwards crossed the original team that runs the Chilliwack drug show,” Egilson’s lawyer Paul Dutt said.

Between Edwards’ lack of memory about the incident on the stand, the fact that he did not call 911 or go to the Chilliwack RCMP detachment during a time when he was let go by the men to get money from his parents, and Kennedy’s hostility to the Crown — despite the fact that she was a Crown witness. — Gardner said he was left with reasonable doubt.

Gardner invoked Ontario Court Justice William Horkins who presided over the Jian Ghomeshi trial, and his words as quoted in the Globe and Mail: “When one considers the grave consequences of being wrongfully convicted of an offence such as this, one can understand why nothing less than proof beyond reasonable doubt can be accepted as the foundation of a criminal conviction.”

“I’m afraid I am left with a reasonable doubt,” Gardner told the court in Chilliwack Wednesday before finding Olson and Egilson not guilty.

Olson’s troubles with the justice system aren’t over as he was due in court Friday facing dangerous driving, stolen property and flight from an officer charges. And he’s due back in court March 8 alongside Troy James to fix a date for trial in connection with an alleged home invasion robbery with a gun, followed by a carjacking and police chase.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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