Thursday, November 24, 2011

G20 charges dropped against 11 as 6 plead guilty

Nov 22 2011 Toronto Star
Jennifer Yang and Peter Edwards Staff Reporters

In a joint submission entered in court today, six of the 17 so-called G20
ringleaders have pleaded guilty and the other 11 defendants are going

The six defendants pleaded guilty in a Finch Ave. courtroom this morning
to the lesser charge of counseling to commit mischief over $5,000. Two of
the defendants — Alex Hundert and Amanda Hiscocks — also pleaded guilty to
counseling to obstruct police.

PHOTOS: G20 meets Occupy TO

The other 11 defendants all had their charges withdrawn just before noon.
All 17 were initially charged with conspiracy.

The Star reported Tuesday that the so-called G20 ringleaders struck a plea
bargain with prosecutors after preliminary hearings were suspended in late

For the six who pleaded guilty, the agreed statement of facts read out in
court this morning stated that it couldn’t be proven that any of their
remarks leading up to the G20 contributed to property damage or
obstruction of police during the summit riots.

The agreed statement also noted that none of the six actually took part in
the riots.

After the charges were officially withdrawn, a statement was posted online
in which the 17 collectively condemned the conspiracy charges.

“This alleged conspiracy is absurd,” the statement read. “We were never
all part of any one group, we didn’t all organize together, and our
political backgrounds are all different. Some of us met for the first time
in jail. What we do have in common is that we, like many others, are
passionate about creating communities of resistance.”

According to defence lawyer Howard Morton, the position now being taken by
the Crown is “drastically different” from the one it took at bail
hearings. His client, Joanna Adamiak, had her charge withdrawn as part of
the plea deal.

“This was nothing more than an attempt to create a public image that these
people are terrorists,” Morton said of the prosecution’s portrayal of the
17 activists and self-described anarchists.

“These people are anything but terrorists. I mean, I wonder if any of them
would even survive anarchy.”

Among the six who pleaded guilty are the four arrested in pre-dawn raids
hours before the G20 summit began on June 26, 2010: Alex Hundert, his
then-partner Leah Henderson, Amanda Hiscocks and Peter Hopperton. Erik
Lankin and Adam Lewis, both members of the anarchist group AW@L (Anti-War
at Laurier), also pleaded guilty.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Hundert and Hiscocks will be
given the longest prison terms of 13 ½ and 16 months, respectively. Both
will be sentenced in January.

Hundert has already spent five months in pre-trial custody and another
five months under house arrest. Hiscocks was in jail for one month and
under house arrest for nine.

Hiscocks has spent the past few weeks preparing for jail by cleaning out
her apartment and spending time with friends and family, she told the Star
in an interview prior to today’s court appearance.

As an activist, she said she has long been prepared for the possibility
that some day she may wind up behind bars.

“I know a lot of people who do this work end up in jail at some point,”
Hiscocks said.

The arrests of the so-called G20 ringleaders in June 2010 were the
culmination of a year-long investigation by two undercover officers and
eight different police services.

At the June 26, 2010, court appearance for Hundert, Hiscocks, Henderson
and Hopperton, Crown attorney Vincent Paris told the court he was
overwhelmed by the volume of evidence collected on the alleged

Prior to a publication ban prohibiting media from reporting trial
evidence, Paris said a plan for violence was put into place over a series
of meetings leading up to the G20 in June 2010. He said the group planned
on hitting targets such as city hall, Metro Hall, Goldman Sachs, The Bay
and various consulates.

As Paris spoke in court during the G20 summit, black-clad vandals were
smashing their way across downtown Toronto and he linked the four
defendants with the “action . . . happening now.”

According to York University law professor Alan Young, a conspiracy case
is often tough to prosecute because it requires proof of an overt
agreement between people who may be loosely connected.

Of the 1,118 people arrested during the G20, more than 140 were charged
with conspiracy, including the 17 described as ringleaders. If the plea
bargain goes through, at least 112 of those conspiracy charges will have
been dropped.

The preliminary hearing for the 17 alleged co-conspirators began Sept. 12,
but was suspended about a week later so the group could enter talks about
a plea deal.

The group has since been embroiled in painstaking negotiations, a
complicated and delicate process involving hours of handwringing and
discussion amongst the multiple co-accused and their respective lawyers.

In an interview with the Star¸ Hiscocks said she was initially vehemently
opposed to striking any deals with the Crown. The 37-year-old longtime
activist said she disapproves of plea bargaining because she considers it
a prosecutorial tactic for eliciting guilty pleas.

But, in the end, Hiscocks agreed a plea deal promised the best possible
outcome for the most people in the group, she said.

“The justice system being what it is, we decided that we weren’t going to
see justice by going through to the end,” Hiscocks said. “We feel like the
most good we’re going to get from the system, for the people in this
group, is going to be through this plea.”

Hiscocks said she believes the charges against her were “politically
motivated” and the group has already been punished by a justice system
that is supposed to presume innocence until proven guilty.

Over the past 15 months, the co-accused have been living either in jail,
under house arrest or subject to restrictive bail conditions preventing
them from doing the community work they devote their lives to, she said.

Everyone has also been prohibited from participating in “demonstrations,”
a word that has been broadly interpreted by the courts. In September 2010,
Hundert was arrested for breaching this bail condition after participating
in a panel discussion at Ryerson University.

“The bail conditions were absolutely ridiculous,” Morton said. “I’ve had
clients charged with manslaughter that had conditions that weren’t this

Many of the 17 are also buckling under the emotional and financial strain
of a legal battle being waged at a snail’s pace, according to Hiscocks.

She said people have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing case and
two of the 17 who stand to have their charges dropped under the deal were
ineligible for legal aid and face an overall legal cost of $150,000 each.
Another co-accused, who would see his charge withdrawn as a part of the
deal, said he faced deportation if convicted.

According to Morton, the case was unlikely to go to trial until next
September at the earliest, more than two years after the charges were
first laid. Some defendants who submitted guilty pleas under the deal will
likely be out of jail and moving on with their lives before the trial
would have started.

Young, an expert on the plea bargaining process, said both sides, the
Crown and defence, have incentives to strike a deal.

“The Crown might perceive there are some weaknesses in the case, the
defence might have some concerns about the claims they want to make,” he
said. “So, ultimately, law of probabilities (says) your best outcome is to
go into court with a joint submission.”

Plea deals also pinch the ballooning costs of a trial, he added. Morton, a
former Crown attorney, estimates the investigation and prosecution has
already cost upwards of $5 million.

But even when people see their charges dropped as a result of a plea deal,
that does not mean they go unpunished, Young added.

“The reality is that the Crown still is victorious in the sense that it
achieves some punitive response without necessarily getting a court
ruling,” he said. “And it’s a very unforgiving process. It doesn’t say
sorry and it doesn’t compensate you for any hardship you suffered.”

Adamiak said she has already spent 20 days in jail and $50,000 defending
herself against charges that would now be dropped under the deal. The
30-year-old York University student said she has depleted her savings to
pay for her defence.

“It’s quite angering to know that the state cast a very wide net at the
G20 and a lot of people had to go through a lot, not just myself,” she
said. “To me, that’s part of the reason why taking a deal to end the
process quickly is what made sense . . . because the process was the

Adamiak admits there were points along the negotiation process where she
felt strongly the trial should proceed.

Ultimately, it was more important to end the process quickly so she and
the others could return to their political work as soon as possible, she

“The use of charges is a fear tactic. It’s to make us fear being part of
particular organizations, to have particular ideologies,” she said. “But,
if anything, it’s made me just much more eager to get back to the things
we were fighting for before.”

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