A Toronto judge has discharged one of two men charged with uttering death threats against political consultants Warren and Lisa Kinsella.
Ontario Court Justice Dan Moore agreed to a “directed verdict” request finding no evidence that LeRoy St. Germaine was guilty of the death-threat Criminal Code charge, defence lawyer Chris Murphy said Friday.
St. Germaine, 76, is publisher of Your Ward News, an east-end Toronto based newsletter criticized for being homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist. His associate, James Sears, 55, a former doctor who had his licence revoked for sexual impropriety, is still facing the charge and is expected to making his closing submissions next week.
The pair were charged with threatening death in 2017 after the Kinsellas initiated a private prosecution over an article that appeared in the newsletter. The Crown has taken over the case. St. Germaine and Sears are also charged separately with wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups.
This week, Warren Kinsella testified a piece written by Sears called for the couple to be “bludgeoned to death,” prompting them to take security precautions.
“The hateful, threatening words couldn’t have (been) published by Sears without the support and involvement of St. Germaine,” he wrote in a direct Twitter message to the Star.
The couple is also concerned about the impact on the upcoming promoting hatred case.
“Does this mean, now, that the publisher of this neo-Nazi rag walks away from that, too? The judge’s ruling sets a very disturbing precedent, one that affects not just us, but persons of colour, women, as well as the Jewish, LGBTQ and Muslim communities.”
On Thursday, while waiting to see if the judge would grant his request to discharge St. Germaine, a woman spit in Murphy’s face as he sat in a Starbucks near the College Park courthouse.
He didn’t recognize her. But Murphy believes she lashed out because of the “emotional” court proceeding unfolding across the street — and the current political climate, noting the rash of pipe bombs sent to leading Democrats in the U.S. Murphy and another lawyer were appointed by the court to assist the defendants by cross-examining the complainants.
“There’s no middle ground,” Murphy said Friday. “If I’m the person who is supposed to be covering the middle ground, from a legal basis, and this happened to me, what chance is there for people who hold different political viewpoints to ever have a rational discussion.”
Murphy added that “obviously” he does not subscribe to the content of Your Ward News and that he took several days before agreeing to take on the case, realizing “it could just really damage my career in a sense I would be associated as a person who subscribes to these ideas.”
Neverthess, Murphy said he felt he had no choice.
“I would rather never do this job for another minute than to have turned it down because I was bullied ….”
Murphy told the store’s manager he didn’t want police called about the spitting assault.
“I’m assuming that this person who did this was, has been the subject of some kind of trauma or hate in her life. The last thing I want is for the police to go and charge her; that’s not going to solve any problem. It’s just going to make it worse, frankly, from my perspective.”
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy