Chilliwack pastor’s child porn trial delves into computer technicalities

Day two of John Vermeer’s two-week trial for allegedly downloading images on to church computers

The child pornography trial of a Chilliwack pastor began Tuesday immediately delving into the technical details of computer systems, and how digital files are shared, stored and deleted.

John (Johannes) Vermeer is charged with one count each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography from May 1, 2010. He also faces the same charges with an offence date of March 17, 2015.

Vermeer is accused of downloading child pornography to computers at Main Street Church.

Crown counsel Teresa Mitchell-Banks outlined the Crown’s case against the 59-year-old Vermeer in court on July 23. The trial was scheduled to begin on July 22 but was adjourned so Crown could share with defence some of the detailed computer information to be explained by witnesses during the two-week trial.

• READ MORE: One-day delay for trial of Chilliwack pastor facing child porn charges

• READ MORE: Chilliwack pastor facing child pornography charges

Mitchell-Banks opened by saying it was 12:18 a.m. on April 20, 2015 when an anti-virus company sent an alert to Empyrion Technologies, which provided IT services to the church.

The alert was seen by technician Steve DeRuyter at Empyrion, and he in turn alerted service manager Taylor Maguire.

Maguire found that Vermeer’s computer was running a peer-to-peer file sharing software program and that his computer was connected to an external hard drive. While attending the church offices, Maguire searched through Vermeer’s computer with Vermeer present along with pastor Shawn Vandop.

At this point all involved knew child porn had been found on the computer, and the presumption was that the material came to be on the computer as a result of a virus or hacking.

Maguire found 81 files with names typical of child pornography, the court heard. Evidence of more images and videos were later found, some on a laptop computer previously used by Vermeer but later used by a newer employee.

“Some of these names are extremely graphic,” Mitchell-Banks said in her opening submissions.

She gave an example of one 14-minute video found on unallocated space (deleted) on a computer that involved three girls between the ages of 10 and 12.

Through all of this, Mitchell-Banks told the court the staff at Empyrion found no evidence of hacking into the computer, and the years between the downloading meant it could not have come from a virus. Technicians also found evidence of searching for child porn at least one of the computers.

Mitchell-Banks also told the court that the external hard drive was missing, and Maguire could not find it when he attended the church.

“[Vermeer] told Mr. Vandop that he had no external drive and denied the child porn was his doing,” Mitchell-Banks said. “So Vandop thought they must have had an external attack.”

It was Vandop who called the RCMP, initiating the police investigation, which led to Vermeer’s arrest in March 2018.

At that time, Vandop said the congregation met the news with shock.

“It’s not something that we want to hear or want to deal with but we live in a broken and messy world with a lot of pain,” he said.

The first witness called to testify was Maguire from Empyrion, and immediately the testimony became technical, starting with basic information about servers and downloading. Maguire testified all day Tuesday and was still on the stand by Wednesday afternoon being cross-examined by Vermeer’s lawyer, Michael Klein.

The trial was scheduled to run all this week, continuing next week running July 29, 30, 31 and Aug. 1.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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