If it can’t explode, can we call it an explosive?
If you didn’t detonate an explosive, and you didn’t make an explosive, can you be guilty of possessing explosives?
If you publicly announce that a fence can be climbed, are you encouraging people to climb that fence?
Is it credible that a grown man would be passionate about model rocketry and gardening?
Those are some of the questions it has taken our justice system almost two years to answer in the case of Byron Sonne, the self-described “security geek” who dared to scrutinize and mock the billion dollar security operation built to protect the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto. The answers, which I heard Judge Nancy Spies deliver today before a courtroom packed with Byron Sonne’s supporters, amounted to this:
Byron Sonne did nothing wrong.
Point for point, Spies tore the Crown’s argument to shreds. If Byron had malicious intent, why would he buy sensitive chemicals with his credit card through an unencrypted Internet connection and have them delivered to his Forest Hill home? If Byron wanted to hurt people before the cops found him, why would he spend his time in public chat rooms and on message boards, detailing every aspect of his activities? The Crown had argued that Byron’s chats and postings were part of an “elaborate alibi,” that rocketry was just a cover for his evil plans. Judge Spies didn’t buy it.
Among other findings, Spies ruled that Sonne obviously cared deeply for his wife, and would never put her in danger by making explosives in their home. That must have been a bittersweet thing for Sonne to hear. He hasn’t spoken to Kristen Petersen since she too was arrested in connection with her husband’s charges. The charges against her were dropped, and she filed for divorce.
Byron Sonne spent 11 months in jail and lost his marriage because he was curious. Were we actually being protected by the G20 security apparatus? Was this security costing us any of our rights, like our right to take a picture on a public street or the right to speak our minds on the Internet? These are far better questions than the ones the Crown presented, and thanks to Sonne, we have answers to them.
We learned something else, too. We now know that a law-abiding Canadian citizen can have his life destroyed by his own government if he’s curious about the wrong things. We know that the system can correct itself, but after too long a time and too much suffering. What we’ll find out next is how the system makes up for the damage done. Sonne has announced his plans to sue the Crown and the police.