Two of the men accused in connection with an RCMP investigation during the 2022 Coutts border protest have plead guilty, an Alberta court announced.
The Lethbridge Court of Justice said Jerry Morin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic firearms on Tuesday.
In a similar ruling, Christopher Lysak also pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, unauthorized possession of a handgun, an offence that was not on the original indictment.
Additional charges against the pair of men, including conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon and mischief were all withdrawn by the Crown.
Morin and Lysak were both sentenced to time served, which considered they spent two years in custody before the verdict was issued.
As a result, both were freed from custody.
Morin’s lawyer, Greg Dunn, issued a written statement saying that his client “steadfastly maintained from the very beginning that he played no part of any alleged conspiracy.”
“(He) is relieved and grateful that those charges, and associated allegations, have been withdrawn by the Crown,” Dunn said.
While Morin pleaded guilty in the case, Dunn says that doesn’t paint the whole picture.
“The charge that Mr. Morin plead(ed) guilty to does not suggest that Mr. Morin at any time took firearms into Coutts, only that he agreed to.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Morin has spent two years in custody of his life awaiting this day. That being said, now that this day is upon him he looks forward to seeing his family and moving on with his life.”
Jerry Morin, one of the Coutts protesters who was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, has plead guilty to a lesser charge and released from custody. (File)
Daniel Song, Lysak’s lawyer, said his client did not possess the handgun for a dangerous purpose and “did not attend the Coutts protests with the intent to harm anyone.”
“He admits that his firearm was loaded with ammunition at the time of police seizure, but denies having loaded and chambered the gun,” Song wrote in a statement to CTV News.
“Mr. Lysak will be released today and return home. He looks forward to moving on with his life and his family.”
Chris Lysak pleaded guilty to unauthorized possession of a handgun at the Coutts protests, but his lawyer claims he was not there to harm anyone. (File)
Morin and Lysak were arrested along with 12 other people when an RCMP raid on a protest camp near the Coutts, Alta., border on Feb. 14, 2022, discovered a cache of firearms and ammunition.
Doug King, a criminal justice professor at Mount Royal University, said Tuesday’s turn of events speaks “to the fact that the crown had some doubt that they would have been able to secure a conviction on the more serious charges.”
“It’s not surprising that this has happened. I think maybe the thing that has caused me to pause for thought is that it has happened so late in the process,” he said.
“These two individuals have been held in remand for nearly two years.”
Chris Carbert and Anthony Olienick were the two other men charged with conspiracy to commit murder along with Morin and Lysak.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the two that are currently in remand have been offered plea deals. It may not be we’re going to drop the serious charges. It could be if you plead to it, we will recommend a reduced sentence,” King said.
“My sense is the two that are currently still being held in remand are heading to trial. And until we know otherwise, we should assume that’s going to happen.”
With files from Quinn Keenan