The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) announced on Sept. 29 that the Ontario Court of Justice has acquitted Courtney John Dugas of charges of disarming a peace officer and assaulting a peace officer.
The decision by Justice David Berg on Sept. 26 came after a two-day trial in which the judge ruled that video evidence, as well as discrepancies in the testimony of police officers, combined to create sufficient reasonable doubt for the charges to be dropped, according to JCCF in a news release.
“This is one of many acquittals in cases where Canadians were criminally charged for doing nothing other than peacefully exercising their Charter freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” said Justice Centre president John Carpay in the release.
Mr. Dugas attended the Rolling Thunder event on April 29, 2022, said the JCCF. The event followed the weeks-long Freedom Convoy protest last February that called for the removal of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Rolling Thunder organizer Neil Sheard said at the time that the three-day event involving hundreds of motorbikes was to pay homage to veterans by “driving around and saluting” the National War Memorial. However, the route designated by the city of Ottawa wouldn’t allow it.
‘Innocent’The Justice Centre said Mr. Dugas, in addition to joining Rolling Thunder during the first day, was scheduled to perform at the event the following day.
It said police officers testified in court that as they formed a line to clear protesters from Rideau Street on the first day of the event, Mr. Dugas allegedly grabbed an officer’s baton and threw a punch.
“However, the officers’ accounts differed with respect to the timing of the alleged assault and the arrest,” the release said. “Mr. Dugas, testifying in his own defence, denied the allegation. His testimony was corroborated in court by a friend who was with him that day.”
The Justice Centre said that, during the trial, the defence played video taken from Rebel News Livestreams that showed the moments leading up to and including the arrest of Mr. Dugas—which corroborated his account of the events.
Justice Berg ruled that the video evidence and the differing accounts provided by the police create sufficient reasonable doubt and that the charges pressed against Mr. Dugas be dropped, the release added.
Mr. Dugas said he is thankful to all who supported him along the way.
“I thank God for watching over me through these difficult times,” he said in a release on Sept. 29. “I also want to thank everyone who has supported me and prayed for me through this time.”
Hatim Kheir, JCCF lawyer and counsel to Mr. Dugas, said he was “pleased to see that justice prevailed” and that his client was acquitted.
“This result confirms again the importance of independent journalists who are on the ground recording events,” he said in a release on Sept. 29.
“In this case, the video evidence showed that Mr. Dugas was innocent.”