Sheep-napping case dismissed today, due to excessive delay getting to trial

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Montana Jones, lawyer Genevieve Eliany, and Michael Schmidt, emerge victorious from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket this morning, with a verdict of “case dismissed”.

A full courtroom gallery of supporters and reporters listened intently this morning while Madame Justice Laura Bird read out her reasons for judgement on the motion of Michael Schmidt and Montana Jones, which was asking to have the CFIA’s case against them dismissed due to excessive delay. In short, Justice Bird did grant the requested dismissal of the case. Read the full “Reasons for Judgement” at this link.

While Justice Bird did attribute responsibility for eight months of the total 53 months delay to the defense, she concluded that the prosecution was primarily responsible for causing the delay through a failure to devote sufficient staff resources to getting the disclosure material out to the defense in a timely manner. Instead it dribbled out over the course of years, the last 5,000 pages of it arriving just in time for the scheduled start of pre-trial hearings in April of 2015.

Also contributing to the delay on the part of the prosecution was their decision to pursue conflict of interest arguments against Michael and Montana’s choice to both use the same lawyer to represent them in this case.

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Michael Schmidt (right) talking to reporters outside the courthouse, following the verdict.

In conversations with reporters on the courtroom steps after the verdict had been handed down, Michael Schmidt suggested that the outcome of having the case dismissed at this point due to excessive delay would actually have been preferred by the Crown, as a more palatable outcome than the revelation of what actually happened behind the scenes. Michael likened it to slapping a lid on a can of smelly garbage.

Several reporters were on hand from local media including the National Post and Now magazine, and the media scrum outside the courtroom continued for about an hour.

Elwood Quinn, a farmer from near Montreal, had brought a Shropshire sheep for the occasion. This sheep was of the same breed as Montana’s flock, which the CFIA eventually found and killed for testing.

Also notable is that this verdict represents the end of the publication ban that began with the pre-trial hearings. It was unusual for a publication ban to be requested by the prosecution. Usually it’s asked for by the defense.

One might wonder whether that publication ban request was an unintentional signal that the CFIA felt themselves to be “on the defense” in this case, which threatened to reveal potentially embarrassing details about their regulatory practices.

Now that the case is ended, we can look forward to a fuller airing of the issues raised by this case in the media.

Link to reasons for judgement.

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Montana (second from right), after the hearing with a Shropshire sheep brought for the occasion by Ellwood Quinn, from Montreal.

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