Sign was okay, driving pattern not – Judge

A Ponoka man is feeling some mixed emotions following the outcome of his court case.

A Ponoka man is feeling some mixed emotions following the outcome of his court case.

Robert Wells, 67, stood in Ponoka Provincial Court on Friday, July 15 to hear the judge proclaim him guilty of the stunting charge from last fall. His sentence was a fine for $814 with the judge stating the higher amount was determined through the principles of equality in sentencing, since people who simply pay the ticket or plead guilty early are presumed to receive a lower sentence.

Wells was given a ticket after being pulled over following some complaints about the sign on his vehicle with an expletive statement regarding now former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Wells fought the ticket and represented himself during the trial ironically held on April 1, 2016 where he challenged that his freedom of expression was being denied.

In his decision, Judge Bart Rosborough ruled that Wells was correct that his rights to freedom of expression were violated and he would be acquitted if that was the only factor he had to look at with regards to the charge.

Judge Rosborough, who provided a 28-page written judgment of his ruling, explained during sentencing that stunting is an act that constitutes performing stunts or other activity that distracts, startles or interferes with other users of the road.

“So, that includes both the sign and your driving behaviour. While I concluded that your rights were violated with regard to the sign, I did not believe your evidence about your driving pattern and accepted the testimony of the RCMP officer and the one female witness,” said the judge.

Outside the courtroom, Wells stated that he believes he proved his case regarding his right to have the sign on his car and reiterated his testimony that he did nothing wrong and followed all of the rules of the road.

He will take a few days to pour over the written decision before deciding whether he will launch an appeal of the verdict.

Back on Aug. 16, 2015, Wells was given a ticket after being pulled over by RCMP after a pair of complaints about the big pink “F___ Harper” sign on his vehicle and refusing to take it down when requested. He took the issue to trial as he believed the ticket stemmed from what the sign stated rather than his driving.

A number of years ago, Wells was in the spotlight for a similar sign about then Alberta Premier Ralph Klein though police in Edmonton determined he had done nothing illegal.