Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer’s trial for child pornography started July 23, 2019 but was delayed until January 2020.

TOP STORIES 2019: Big names in court in Chilliwack in 2019

A former city councillor, an MLA’s constituency assistant, a church pastor, and a Rotarian

From prolific offenders to known gang associates to low-level petty criminals, there are some names seen over and over, week after week at the courthouse.

But a few criminal cases stood out on the docket, and proved particularly newsworthy in 2019. Two alleged incidents of white collar crime received a lot of ink, as did two child pornography cases, one that resulted in a not guilty verdict, the other unresolved.

Topping the list of high-profile names at the Chilliwack Law Courts in 2019 is undoubtedly Sam Waddington. The former city councillor who ran for mayor in 2018, was on the hot seat for months over expenses from 2017 while he was in office.

Brushed off by some as the machinations of a political foe, namely former mayor Sharon Gaetz who filed a freedom of information (FOI) request and who ran against him for the top spot on council, the accusations proved to be fruitful enough for the RCMP to hand over to Crown counsel to consider trials.

And two years after the first accusations surfaced, Waddington was charged with two counts of breach of trust by public officer. His case is still before the courts, next date is Jan. 14.

• READ MORE: Former Chilliwack city councillor charged with breach of trust over expense claims

Then there was the case of MLA John Martin’s constituency assistant who, in March 2017, was fired by Martin after the MLA discovered tens of thousands of dollars missing from his constituency office bank account.

After two-and-a-half months of not reporting the name most people knew, special prosecutor Robin McFee approved criminal charges against 29-year-old Desmond Michael Devnich.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack MLA’s former constituency assistant charged with fraud, breach of trust

Devnich is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of breach of trust by a public officer. He is next due in court Jan. 21.

Two child pornography cases against unlikely individuals garnered significant headlines in 2019.

Sixty-two-year old Ian Robert Meissner faced five child pornography charges from back in 2016, charges that took more than two years to come to trial. Meissner was a past director of the Chilliwack Arts Council, past president of the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board, and president of one of the Chilliwack Rotary Clubs.

Also a photographer who shared tens of thousands of images on file sharing networks, Meissner said he did not know how four or five images that constituted child pornography got on his computer.

• READ MORE: Prominent Chilliwack realtor says he doesn’t know how child porn got on his computer

In the end, a BC Supreme Court justice agreed there was reasonable doubt that Meissner knew he even had the images on his computer, and he was acquitted.

• READ MORE: All child porn charges against Chilliwack realtor dismissed

The Chilliwack church pastor facing child pornography charges was another shock to the community. John (Johannes) Vermeer is charged with downloading child pornography on to computers at Main Street Church on two separate occasions.

Vermeer’s case, however, has been mired in technical matters and legal controversy. The trial began on July 23 and was scheduled for eight days, at least. But the issues over a missing hard drive and computer log disclosure has delayed the trial into the new year.

The case is due to resume Jan. 9, with four days in January, two in February and two in March.

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Ian Meissner exits the Chilliwack Law Courts with supporters and his legal counsel Martin Finch on March 21, 2019 after having all charges relating to child pornography dismissed. (Jessica Peters/ Progress file)

Desmond Devnich, former constituency assistant to Chilliwack MLA John Martin, is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and two counts of breach of trust. (LinkedIn)

Ending some online speculation, Coun. Sam Waddington confirmed in June he would be running for mayor in the October municipal election. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

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