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Sagmoen outburst exhibited

Justice Alison Beames has ruled a temporary publication ban of testimony emerging from a voir dire in the trial of Curtis Sagmoen be lifted.

Beames gave her reasons in Vernon court, Tuesday. Sagmoen attended from lockup via closed-circuit TV.

"Defence counsel seeks a publication ban to preserve trial fairness with regard to another criminal case pending against the accused and two ongoing investigations being conducted by the RCMP involving the accused which may lead to further charges and future trials," Beames noted.

Court heard four days of testimony in the voir dire on admissibility of statements given by Sagmoen after his arrest from Monday through Thursday last week. 

Crown counsel Simone McCallum went through all recorded RCMP interactions with Sagmoen, starting with a traffic stop, moving through his arrest and transfer to the cells at Vernon RCMP, and each interaction with Sagmoen including one-on-one interviews and discussions during smoking breaks. The detailed and lengthy listenings were likely designed to show how officers performed their duties "by the book."

The majority of the conversations between Const. Richard MacQueen and Sagmoen were tepid, with the exception of moments when MacQueen touched on elements relating to family members.

At one point, after making mention of the need to search the family desktop computer, Sagmoen jumped to his feet, grabbed a chair in the interview room, and raised it above his head as if he was ready to throw it. He was screaming so loudly that his voice distorted on the audio. The officer managed to quickly de-escalate the tension, and Sagmoen later apologized for the outburst.

Sagmoen had two other notable outbursts on the videos, relating to access to his truck and his smartphone so he could be available for work.

Defence lawyer Lisa Helps is challenging the admissibility of the statements, suggesting Sagmoen was induced to talk through mention of potential early release or less disruption to family members from searches. Neither of these outcomes were possible, Helps said.

She claimed that MacQueen recognized he could push Sagmoen's buttons by bringing his family into the conversation, and did so when he was vulnerable. Sagmoen was also sensitive about mentions of his contacts with escorts, and his use of apps on his smartphone to connect with them.

Helps also said Sagmoen is "not as sophisticated" as the average person, which also added to his vulnerability. During one session, MacQueen had to explain what "anxiety" meant to Sagmoen.

MacQueen and McCallum countered that building rapport combined with pointed pressure are standard interrogation techniques.

Beames said she will make her ruling on admissibility on Monday, Sept. 23, at 9 a.m. in Vernon's Supreme Court of B.C.

All media are working together through the court registry to obtain video from the voir dire. The video of interview sessions needs to be edited and the voice of the interviewee needs to be unrecognizable under terms of the ban removal.

The video of the questioning will now likely be made available to the media Wednesday morning.

Background

There was a publication ban issued pre-trial covering any details that would tend to identify the victim in the case. That notice went out on Aug. 30. No issues were raised by attending members of the media.

On Monday, Sept. 9, McCallum and Helps jointly proposed a ban of details emerging from the voir dire — a mini-trial within a trial held to determine the admissibility of evidence. This voir dire focused on the "voluntariness" of statements given by the defendant.

This caught most media, and Justice Alison Beames, off guard as publication bans of voir dire hearings in a judge-only trial are rare.

The remaining voir dire hearings and the trial proper are tentatively scheduled for the weeks of Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

Sagmoen is now facing four counts related to allegations arising from an incident on Aug. 26 and 27 2017: He masked his face with the intent to commit an indictable offence, he intentionally discharged a firearm being reckless of the life or safety of another person, used a firearm while threatening a complainant or during flight after threatening the complainant and uttering threats.

The charges in this case stem from an incident in August 2017 where a sex worker alleges she was threatened with a weapon before she managed to escape.

Sagmoen has been behind bars since his arrest in September 2017.

In October 2017, police searched a farm owned by Sagmoen's parents on Salmon River Road near Silver Creek where they found the remains of Traci Genereaux.

No connection between Genereaux and Sagmoen has been made, and he is not facing any charges relating to her death.

Police have called Genereaux's death suspicious.

Other allegations of violent acts against women by Sagmoen have also been made, and on Feb. 4 Sagmoen pleaded guilty to an assault charge stemming from an incident in the Lower Mainland in 2013.

Sagmoen was originally charged with assault causing bodily harm in an attack on a sex trade worker in Maple Ridge, but entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.



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