Mayor Jackson pleads guilty
By Rick Vanderlinde Simcoe.com April 20 2010
INNISFIL —Mayor Brian Jackson has pleaded guilty to threatening Coun. Bill Pring with bodily harm. Mr. Justice Jon-Jo Douglas gave Jackson an absolute discharge in a Bradford courtroom Tuesday following the guilty plea.
The Crown attorney’s office and Jackson’s defence counsel jointly recommended the absolute discharge, which means Jackson will not have a criminal record. The mayor also submitted to a $1,000, six-month peace bond.
Jackson was charged with assault and uttering threats July 2 in connection with an episode that took place in his office after he called a recess at a June 29 council meeting.
An assault charge laid by South Simcoe Police, which allegedly involved Jackson pushing Pring, was withdrawn as part of a pre-trial plea bargain.
In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard an “enraged” Jackson threatened to hit Pring with a wooden goalie stick that was displayed in the mayor’s office.
Jackson had called Pring and Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope into his office after Pring made a “surprise motion” in council that called for the mayor to be removed from a key negotiating committee.
Reading from an agreed statement of facts, Crown attorney Frank Faveri said, “Jackson walked by Pring and said, “In my office’. He slammed the door and engaged in a verbal tirade. He was enraged. The mayor forgot to turn off his lapel mic so it was amplified throughout the council chamber. The mayor was yelling and swearing at Pring. He said, ‘What the f… are you up to? Don’t you ever do that again.”
Faveri added Pring remembers Jackson saying, “What the f… are you trying to do to me Pring?”
“Then (Jackson) motioned to a wooden goalie stick and threatened to harm Pring with it,” Faveri told the court. “(Witnesses) said it was extremely out of character for Jackson. They had never seen him so angry. His fists were clenched by his side, he was shaking and he had bright red face.”
Wauchope had to tell the mayor to calm down because he feared the situation would escalate, Faveri said.
Jackson offered an apology when he addressed Justice Douglas.
“I offer my deepest regrets for the incident and extend by apologies to my council colleagues and the residents of Innisfil,” Jackson said. “It was an unfortunate circumstance.”
Jackson’s lawyer Leslie Kaufman said the case has caused the mayor and his wife “immense stress”.
“It has weighed heavily on him for the last 10 months,” she told the court. “It was incredibly difficult and embarrassing.”
The situation has also taken a toll on Jackson’s health, she said.
“The last time it came up in court he spent the entire day in emergency due to the stress,” Kaufman said. “It has caused him incredible stress every time it is in court.”
Justice Douglas agreed an absolute discharge “was in the best interests of all parties involved.”
“The accused had always wished to resolve this and was prepared to take it on the chin,” Justice Douglas said. “You took the position that you would admit to your wrong-doing in a public place.”
Justice Douglas credited several pre-trial meetings and mediation sessions between Jackson and Pring for leading the Crown and defence to a joint recommendation for an absolute discharge.
Justice Douglas said he was “most concerned” that Jackson’s actions may have affected the democratic process.
“Politics is a blood sport. It is loud … and vociferous,” he told Jackson. “But you crossed the line of vigorous debate by doing something that was by its very nature criminal.”
Justice Douglas said the criminal court process that shined a light on the incident ensured that “democracy was not undone, but perhaps improved.”
Pring, who was not in court Tuesday, declined the opportunity to provide a victim impact statement.
Phil Downes, Pring’s lawyer, observed the proceedings but did not offer any comment to the court.
Outside the courthouse, he told The Journal the outcome will please Pring.
“He will be happy that Mr. Jackson has publicly acknowledged the threats against him,” Downes said. “He trusts that the process will ensure that Mr. Jackson respects the democratic process.”