Charges dropped against four native protesters
October 16, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator
The Crown has dropped criminal charges against four native protesters arrested by a heavily armed OPP tactical squad at the controversial Stirling Woods survey in Caledonia last year.
The operation involved about 50 officers in riot gear, including shields and batons, who marched into the partially constructed residential subdivision in September 2007 to remove a small pocket of native activists occupying the site.
The massive sweep came about a week after 52-year-old Sam Gualtieri was attacked and beaten by intruders inside a house he was building as a wedding gift for his daughter. He suffered severe head and facial injuries and has since launched a suit against the Ontario Provincial Police, alleging they didn’t protect him against the protesters.
In a surprise move yesterday, assistant Crown attorney Mitchell Hoffman announced he wouldn’t be proceeding against Skyler Williams, 25, who was charged with mischief and resisting arrest, or against Stephen Powless, 43, June Jamieson-Maracle, 42, and Francine Doxtator, 48, who were all charged with mischief.
Hoffman also told Ontario Justice Joe Nadel he wouldn’t be prosecuting an 18-year-old woman, who was also charged with mischief and will appear in Cayuga court Oct. 23.
He said he will be proceeding with charges against the four remaining Stirling Woods defendants, however, when the trial starts late this year or early next.
They include: Ronald Cook, 31,of Akwasasne, N.Y., for mischief and possession of a prohibited weapon; Gregory Powless, 19, of Ohsweken for mischief; and Sheranne MacNaughton, 25, of Hagersville and Teresa Jamieson, 42, of Ohsweken, who both face charges of mischief and assaulting police to resist arrest.
The defendants are all out on bail awaiting their trial.
Defence lawyer Sarah Dover, who at one time represented all nine Stirling Woods defendants, said her clients are anxious to have the matter heard in court as quickly as possible.
She told Nadel she intends to bring a pre-trial application to have the charges dropped against her two remaining clients, Powless and MacNaughton, on the basis that the OPP used “excessive force” in arresting them and the mischief charges couldn’t be proven. She also indicated she may argue charges should be thrown out because of the undue delay in bringing the case to trial.
Nadel adjourned the case until Nov. 5 when the lawyers and judge will try to come up with a suitable date for the trial, which is expected to last about four weeks.
Last month, Hoffman also withdrew charges against 19-year-old Byron Powless. He was one of three people charged in connection with the attack on Sam Gualtieri, his nephew Dominic and another man during the confrontation at Gualtieri’s partially built house Sept. 13, 2007.
After hearing the evidence of a key Crown witness at the preliminary hearing, Hoffman told the judge he was dropping the charges against Powless because there was no reasonable prospect of convicting him.