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Setting of trial dates for men accused in Alberta border blockade delayed a month

Accused were among 14 people charged in February
Demonstrators against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate leave in a truck convoy after blocking the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing near Coutts, Alta., on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Setting of trial dates for four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the protest in southern Alberta has been delayed another month after one of the accused fired his lawyer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Setting of trial dates for four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade in southern Alberta has been delayed another month after one of the accused fired his lawyer.

Court in Lethbridge, Alta., was told Monday that Chris Carbert dismissed his lawyer, so the case was adjourned until July 11.

Carbert — along with Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin — and were among 14 people charged in February after RCMP found a cache of long guns, handguns, body armour, large amounts of ammunition and high-capacity magazines in three trailers at a protest near Coutts, Alta.

The protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions began in late January and lasted for almost three weeks. Police allege a group at the protest was willing to use force if the blockade was disrupted and described the threat as “very serious.”

Prosecutor Steve Johnston confirmed that he plans to go ahead with direct indictments for all four men who will be tried together. Direct indictment eliminates the need for a preliminary hearing before trial.

“This is the first appearance on the direct indictment,” said Johnston.

Carbert, who had retained Calgary defence lawyer Balfour Der, has replaced him with Clayton Rice.

“We had a tentative date for case management set and obviously Mr. Carbert discharged his counsel, so we’re in a little bit of limbo here,” Johnston said.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dallas Miller agreed to adjourn the matter but ordered that the two separate trial dates that had been discussed be kept available.

“I put it on the defence to confirm whether there’s any possibility of a re-election and whether the Crown is agreeable to that,” said Miller, referring to the decision by the accused to be tried before a judge and jury.

“If there is … we’re quite certain we can get an earlier trial date.”

A re-election could shorten the timing if it was before a judge alone.

Alias Sanders, appearing on behalf of Lysak’s lawyer Jim Lutz, said that’s likely not going to happen.

“He’s been anxious to get this matter moving and in the past two months … it hasn’t moved from Mr. Lysak’s perspective at all,” Sanders said.

“Mr. Lysak was the first to have a bail hearing, he was the first to make an election and he has just been sitting in custody. His hands have been tied by what’s been happening with the remainder of the co-accused. He’s been trying to get a date for two months.”

Lysak is also charged with uttering threats, possession of a weapon and mischief to property over $5,000.

Johnston also said the Crown received volumes of new evidence last week which will be shared with the defence.

Three of the four accused have already been denied bail and will remain in custody until their trial.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2022.

- Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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