Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

Who’s going to explain why he spent nearly a year behind bars?

Yesterday, Byron Sonne, the only person still being held on G20-related charges, was finally granted bail after spending almost a year in jail. The Crown is prosecuting Sonne aggressively, and will characterize him at trial (to begin no sooner than this fall) as a dangerous radical as they attempt to prove explosives charges against the Forest Hill computer security expert.

Sonne, with whom I’ve corresponded throughout his time in prison, sees himself as a civil libertarian who tested the billion dollar “security theatre” protecting the G20. Sonne says he wanted to see if and how it worked, and to see if any citizen’s rights would be violated in the process.

Details of the courtroom proceedings in Sonne’s case are subject to a publication ban. As such, coverage of his case has been limited. Toronto Life published a cover story giving many details of Sonne’s life and activities leading up to his arrest. But once the ban is lifted, the real questions won’t be about what Sonne did—they’ll be about how the police and the Crown have behaved in this extraordinary case.

Here are some I’ll be asking:

-Why was Sonne, who has no prior criminal record, twice denied bail and held for over 10 months?

-Was he considered a flight risk or a danger to anyone?

-If so, what’s different now?

-Before his arrest, did the police trick Sonne into handing over his I.D. by threatening him with a jaywalking charge?

-Why was Sonne’s (now-estranged) wife also arrested and charged?

-Did the weapons charges (since dropped) refer solely to Sonne’s homemade potato gun?

-If so—really?

-Do the explosives charges refer solely to legal substances Sonne bought for gardening and toy rockets?

-If so—really?

-Why was Sonne hit with the obscure charge (since dropped) of  ”intimidating justice system officials,” which is meant to prevent accused criminals from stalking or threatening judges, lawyers and jurors?

-Did it refer to Sonne’s online description of police on bicycles as “bacon on wheels”?

-If so—really?

-If it turns out that Sonne was simply a provocateur and geek who never posed a threat to anyone, at what point did the police and Crown learn this?

-If they knew this all along, why did they continue to imprison and prosecute him?

-And if so, who will answer for the loss of his freedom, the destruction of his career, and the dissolution of his marriage?

Byron Sonne may well turn out to be a guy who taunted and teased a starving, unchained guard dog to see how it would react. Maybe a guy like that is a fool, maybe he is brave—maybe he’s both. Maybe it’s not important.

The real questions are about the dog: why was it starving for meat? Why was it unchained? Thanks to Sonne, we may soon find out.




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Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

  1. Jesse, Thank you for showing the courage to be a journalist rather than a press-release-copy-and-paster. Someone needs to ask these questions loudly and publicly. The Ontario Provincial government is up this fall – and they’re on the hook. The Canadian government may be significantly compromised morally and ethically as a result of this case and the pending report from the Auditor General. Unless the truth about the actions of the “guard dog” are brought to light, we’re not going to be living in Canada – we’ll be living in “Canada” — and that’s a very important distinction. ~Myrcurial

  2.  Thanks for bringing this to (my?) our attention. I don’t feel smart enough to comment on it yet, but man, I can feel the blood start to boil. Starting to remind me of Chretien at APAC, but worse. All we can do is speak to power, loudly and clearly, and embarrass the hell out of them. 

    •  I like Byron Sonne and his brother Chris especially.  In high school at JA Turner Fenton in Brampton;  1991 He had the whole school evacuated, because of a fake plasticine bomb he left on the top shelf of the library.  He was an anarchist back then, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last I would heard from him.  Let the mounties do their job because they know more than you think.Edit
      Reply

  3. As has been mentioned, good on you Jesse for following up on this (both here and on your podcast). Given the restrictions on information, it is hard to say for certain what is what. Without a doubt, many factors do not seem to pass the sniff test. It blows my mind how this has been handled thus far…

  4. I can’t express just how grateful I am that Macleans is asking these questions. This is what we need – the public needs to question the actions of the police, the crown and the government. We can not let the ongoing G20 abuses go unanswered. Thank you!

  5.  Does anyone know of a defense fund for this guy? I would gladly contribute.

  6. Just to play devil’s advocate –

    The flip side to the statement at the end of the article is that Mr. Sonne may in fact turn out to have been fully intending to carry out his very public campaign against the authorities to its natural conclusion.

    The publication ban, which according to the linked article was requested by the defence and not the Crown, prevents us from knowing the reasons Sonne was denied bail. However, it’s worth noting that the onus is on the Crown to show why the accused should not be released. The Criminal Code instructs a Judge to start from the presumption that release should be granted without conditions, then consider conditions on release, and finally remand into custody pending trial. Factors to be considered are whether it’s necessary to ensure attendance at trial (i.e. whether the person is a flight risk), public safety concerns, and finally things like the seriousness of the charge, strength of the Crown case, and the likelihood that there will be a lengthy sentence. A Judge was clearly satisfied that there was some basis for the detention.

    That certainly doesn’t prove his guilt, but maybe it should give us pause before we rush to the conclusion that the actions of the prosecution are entirely the product of malice and spite.

    •  ”A Judge was clearly satisfied that there was some basis for the detention.”

      Likely based on police statements. After G20, those statements might be a little less trustworthy, based on ongoing legal issues, investigations and a hilarious overreaction by the police on the scene. Of those original 1100 arrests, how many resulted in charges? How many injuries? How many Toronto police not wearing any ID?

      Malice and spite, indeed.

    • Your assumptions are based on a fair JP and Judge back during the original bail hearing and review. I think part of the challenge we face is explaining to people that the system is not blind and impartial, is it claims to be.

      On another counter-point; The evidentiary threshold at the early stages of a trial are all but non-existent. Even at the preliminary inquiry stage, the threshold is exceedingly low (search on “The Shephard Test”). Despite being so low, five or the original six charges were thrown out.

      The crown was able to say what ever they liked, and they made Byron out to be a horrible person. They couldn’t back it up though, and that is why things changed so much at the prelim. Come trial, when everything needs to be backed up by facts, I have no doubt at all that all charges will be dismissed.

      Even then though, if Byron walks totally free, the price he has paid is immense.

      • The Shephard test is applied at the preliminary stages of the trial to place the onus on the Crown to show that they have some evidentiary basis for the charge. The requirement is low because the test allows the charges to be quashed before there is any trial if the Judge concludes there is insufficient evidence on which a properly instructed Jury could reach a guilty verdict. It essentially allows the Crown to put it’s best case forward, virtually unchallenged – and if even then the judge thinks there could be no conviction is it quashed.

        That’s not what we’re dealing with though - we’re talking about pre-trial custody, which has a different standard. The Crown has to meet the onus on one of the grounds described above. The defence can challenge what the Crown is saying. They had an opportunity to do so twice, and succeeded – apparently - on the third try.

        The onus of proving that the accused should remain in custody grows with each review, as the infringement on the accused’s liberty becomes more severe. At some point the Crown even has to consider relenting because they risk that the charge will be quashed on the basis that the right to a speedy trial has been infringed. It’s easier to get an order that the trial has not proceeded swiftly when the accused is in jail.  

        Of course, all we can do here is speculate.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • Perhaps if you repeat your message several more times – like 15 – we will all be even more impressed….

  7. A little bit of Devil’s Advocate mode ON:
     If one engages in civil disobedience and/or as a provocateur, one should expect or be prepared for consequences.Should one feel sorry for an careless, spoiled, upper middle class kid who married into wealth who dabbles at anarchy?  Without regards for the consequences to his family and friends?He wanted to attract attention to himself.  He went and poked the guard dog in the eye.  And he got bit.If one is only pretending at anarchy games, don’t have a stockpile of dual purpose chemicals and materials stashed in your garage.

    •  Your statements are based on so many (false) assumptions that it is hard to begin responding.

      • I appreciate that you are supporting Byron, Madison – and it is a very sad, sad, story… but I don’t see a single false assumption in the previous poster’s comments:
        1. Byron WAS careless. As a security professional, he knows what they’re capable of.
        2. Spoiled? Some would say so.
        3. Upper middle class? Absolutely.
        4. Married into wealth? Duh.
        5. Dabbles in anarchy? He’s stated as much.
        6. Did not consider the consequences to his family and friends? He’s effectively admitted as much.
        7. Wanted to attract attention to himself? Also self-admitted.

        Where exactly are the false assumptions?

         

        •  It is false to assume that any of this matters

    • I see you have a car in your driveway with gas in the tank and a lawn sprinkler in your garage. Hmm, well what do we have here? Ah- a garden hose. Well, all evidence points to you assembling the parts of a homemade flamethrower. Why is that? Your neighbour voted Liberal eh? 

      We’ll be keeping our eyes on you pal. 

    • Are you satisfied to be ruled by a dog?

      The law is our own creation, not a force of nature. It should be as civil and rational as human beings aspire to be, not a vengeful and unpredictable animal. That thinking people have come to blame the victims of the law’s brutality is largely the problem.

  8. My fear/guess is that Byron had been meticulous about making sure his chemical stocks were within the legal limits but made an error in his inventory and accidentally had a small exceedance of one or another item. 

    The authorities could jump all over something like this in light of how big a pain he’s been to them. When you challenge the integrity of the authorities the way Byron has, you can find yourself with an unjust punishment. This is the biggest problem with law enforcement. 

    • That would first require assuming that he had anything illegal at all. :)

  9. I’ve got no problem with letting the justice system run it’s course with this guy. He went looking for trouble, and he found it. No surprise. Is his treatment harsh? Yes, probably. But the guy wanted to pick a fight with “the security apparatus”, and it should be no surprise that they’re using every tool at their disposal to fight back.

    He spent days trying to undermine the security for the G20, and publishing his findings on the internet. He pen-tested the system, and the system fought back. I think his experiment has concluded.

    • Surprising or not, it is outrageously unjust. You have a disturbing ignorance of the difference between “what will happen” and “what should happen”.

      • Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US is running around 1.2T and counting.
        Results? 157 Canadians dead and few roads plus a temporary Tim Horton’s built.

        Cost of G8/G20 in Toronto ~$1B
        Results? +1000  arrested, a couple handfuls prosecuted. Nothing built (in Toronto) and +30 war criminals were left to continue to live happily in the GTA.  

        Was it worth it? 

        I’m hoping that Byron is Canada’s version of “Tank Man” from Tiananmen in 89′. Without the “disappeared without a trace” after that event. And if he’s guilty can we extrapolate the cost to tax payers as about $33B to round up the known war criminals in Canada?

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