A convicted hate-monger who maintains his defence lawyer deliberately blew the case will get a rare chance to show why his trial should be reopened, a judge ruled on Monday.
Instead of sentencing James Sears for promoting hatred against women and Jews, Ontario court Justice Richard Blouin said he would instead allow the editor of Your Ward News to argue his lawyer, Dean Embry, failed to defend him properly by refusing to call any witnesses.
“You’ve made the argument that Mr. Embry basically threw the case,” Justice Blouin said to Mr. Sears. “That’s an issue I’m going to have to decide.”
Mr. Sears, 55, was found guilty in January and made sentencing submissions in April. He fired Mr. Embry, who denies any wrongdoing, in May and now represents himself.
Mr. Sears gave several reasons for Justice Blouin to either reopen the trial or declare a mistrial. The judge, however, focused on Mr. Sears’s view that Mr. Embry, didn’t do his job. While the Crown argued Mr. Sears’s allegations were without merit, Justice Blouin said he had no choice but to hear them.
The judge gave Mr. Sears two weeks to provide a list of proposed witnesses, their credentials and what they would testify to. He said he would then decide whether to reopen the trial to hear those witnesses, declare a mistrial or proceed with sentencing.
“My overarching obligation is to ensure a fair trial,” said Justice Blouin, who is retiring at the end of August. “I’m allowing Mr. Sears an opportunity to satisfy me that this is an exceptional case.”
Mr. Sears waived solicitor-client privilege to allow Mr. Embry to discuss the case, but in an interview, the lawyer said he would respond to the allegations once he has specifics.
“I’m not sure who he’s talking about,” Mr. Embry said. “Those are the sort of details that he hasn’t given at this point in terms of who he wanted to call that I allegedly prevented him from calling.”
Mr. Sears and co-accused, publisher LeRoy St. Germaine, 77, were convicted of promoting hatred against women and Jews in Your Ward News. The free Toronto-based publication was distributed to more than 300,000 homes and businesses, as well as having an online presence. The publication consistently portrayed women and Jews in beyond ugly terms.
The Crown wants a total one-year jail term for Mr. Sears, who now returns to court on Aug. 1. Mr. Embry, before he was fired, had argued for a four-month conditional sentence.
Separately Monday, the prosecution urged Justice Blouin to jail Mr. St. Germaine for a total of six months. The publication, which became more vile over its three years, had a profoundly negative impact on recipients, Crown lawyer Erica Whitford said.
Mr. St. Germaine, who has shown little remorse, was less culpable than Mr. Sears, author of most of Your Ward News content, she said.
“He seems to have been led by Mr. Sears,” Ms. Whitford said. “[But] he has admitted he does have final say over the contents.”
The prosecution also called for two years probation and wants Mr. St. Germaine barred from contact with Mr. Sears and from publishing any material that disparages Jews or women.
Mr. St. Germaine, whose Métis background has to be taken into account by the court in sentencing, has a criminal record from decades ago, including for breaking and entering, court heard.
Defence lawyer Ian McCuaig called for a suspended sentence or, at most, a total of two months house arrest. He cited his client’s health issues as well as his unstable family background for turning him into an angry man.
“It’s lashing out,” said Mr. McCuaig, who argued the number of people who complained to police about Your Ward News was “shockingly low.”
Mr. St. Germaine, who has a Grade 8 education, told Justice Blouin that those offended by Your Ward News “were told to be offended,” and blasted the prosecution as a waste of money. He has undertaken not to publish again and wants to break with Mr. Sears, according to a presentence report.
Justice Blouin, who suggested a reconciliation meeting between Mr. St. Germaine and some of his victims, said he would set a sentencing date Aug. 1.
Mr. Sears, a married father who was found guilty of sexual assault in the 1990s and lost his medical licence over sexual impropriety with female patients, said he saw no need to hire a new lawyer.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.