Byron Sonne was the longest-held detainee from the Toronto G20 arrests — he was imprisoned for 11 months before finally being released on bail in May. The computer geek has pleaded not guilty to four charges of possessing explosive substances and one of counselling others to commit mischief. Four other charges were dropped after a preliminary hearing in February.Sonne was arrested near his Forest Hill home on June 22, 2010, just days before the G20 was to begin. He had come under police suspicion the week before when he was seen taking photos of the security fence and was reluctant to give his name.
The Crown conceded that Toronto Police used a ruse in order to get Byron Sonne to hand over his ID on June 15, 2010. Sonne had been filming the $9.4 million security fence that went up before the international summit. A security guard called the police, and three officers stopped Sonne as he walked along Temperance St. One asked for his identification. Sonne refused, stating that he knew it was his right not to identify himself unless he was being detained for a specific crime. So, bicycle officer Michael Wong told Sonne that he was being investigated for jaywalking under the Highway Traffic Act. On November 10, Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies decided this ruse meant Sonne was unlawfully detained, and that his rights were violated under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
His lawyers argue officers quickly developed tunnel vision after reading Sonne’s blog, posts on Flickr and tweets from a Toronto Goat Twitter account and wrongly concluded he was dangerous.
Defence lawyer Joseph Di Luca told the court the flimsy evidence amassed against Sonne should be thrown out because police repeatedly violated his Charter rights and filed an affidavit filled with “falsehoods and inaccuracies” to secure search warrants for his home and Midland cottage.
At one point, police falsely claimed they’d found HTMD, an explosive substance, and a home-made detonator in Sonne’s Elderwood Ave. home so a judge would issue another warrant.
For its part, the Crown says police didn’t intentionally mislead the judge who issued the warrants and officers had good reason to suspect Sonne was up to no good.
So what was all this compelling evidence the police used to get their search warrants? Tweets from Sonne complaining about all the security cameras, advice on what Home Depot bolts to use to climb the security fence and a request for a photo of a G20 security pass that residents use. From that last post, police told the judge Sonne was seeking to forge one for himself to get inside the inner perimeter.
Investigators also came across photos of a homemade wave gun posted a full 16 months before Sonne’s arrest. After consulting Wikipedia of all things, police concluded Sonne must be assembling a HERF death ray weapon to fry security communication.
The officer also failed to include in his affidavit a blog entry a few months later where Sonne explains that after five unsuccessful tries, he’d given up on the homemade contraption.
Months before the G20, Sonne had posted a photo of a potato cannon on Flickr that police somehow concluded was not only operational but also “capable of firing projectiles” that “could cause grievous bodily harm or even possible death.”
“He posts these pictures a mere month before the G20,” the prosecutor said. “It looks like a weapon of some kind. It’s not something you see at Canadian Tire. It looks sinister in some way to the uninitiated for sure.”
But to much laughter, the judge said that from watching Holmes on Homes, Sonne’s alleged “projectiles” look to her household drywall plugs.
Spies is expected to rule early next week about the validity of the search warrants. If she tosses them, the poster boy for G20 terrorism may be one step closer to getting back to his true geeky pursuits.