Byron Sonne Trial: Toronto G20 Activist Acquitted

CP  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/18/2012 8:09 am

TORONTO - A security geek once portrayed by police as a budding terrorist flashed victory signs Tuesday after his acquittal on charges of possessing explosives ahead of the G20 summit marred by violence and mass arrests.

Despite his two-year ordeal, which included 11 months in jail following his arrest two years ago, an ecstatic Byron Sonne said he would continue to "test" the system.

"I'm not going to stop," a trembling Sonne, 39, said after his exoneration.

"It's more important than ever that we fight against the slippery slope of what's being done with our rights, against our ability to participate how we see fit."

Sonne was arrested in the days before the June 2010 summit. Although police found no bombs, he was charged with four counts of possessing explosives and one of counselling mischief.

Police alleged he planned to combine the myriad neatly labelled legal chemicals he had at his upscale home into explosives, and that he incited others to scale or tear down the three-metre security fence erected around the main downtown summit site.

"You guys are making me look like some kind of terrorist or something," he told police after his arrest.

In her 87-page judgment that took almost two hours to read, Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies accepted Sonne's claims the chemicals police seized could have been used in pursuit of his rocketry hobby, for camping or for gardening.

Spies, who called the Crown's case "entirely circumstantial," noted Sonne had been open in numerous Internet exchanges about his intentions to test the $1-billion G20 security setup.

She rejected the Crown's contention that Sonne's interest in rocketry was an elaborate ruse to hide his nefarious intentions.

"There was no need to make any alibi this elaborate," Spies said. "If Mr. Sonne needed an alibi, he'd never have gone public in the first place."

Sonne's various statements to police were largely consistent and credible, Spies said.

She called him intelligent, methodical and safety conscious about the potentially dangerous substances he had in the home he shared with his artist wife, Kristen Peterson, who was also arrested although charges against her were dropped.

Sonne, the judge said, felt "very strongly" about his wife.

"I do not believe he would have done anything to risk injury to her or worse," Spies said.

The couple has since split up, something Sonne noted poignantly after the verdict.

"It would be nice to walk out of the courthouse into her arms, but that's just not going to happen."

Sonne has been living with his parents, who regularly attended the proceedings, as did several supporters who considered him a political prisoner.

Cheers erupted in the courtroom after Spies concluded, and Sonne raised his hands and looked up, as if thanking God.

"I'm absolutely thrilled — I'm just shaking. I wanted to cry and jump up and scream," his mother Valerie Sonne said.

"I knew he was innocent but I was just not sure what was going to happen."

University of Toronto Prof. Andrew Clement said Sonne's actions may not have been "prudent," but he called the verdict a "terrific judgment."

Spies' ruling was a clear endorsement Sonne was testing the intrusive security setup, he said.

"It restores a kind of faith in the basics of the justice system that have been so impaired in this war on terror and securitization that we saw in such evidence around the G20," Clement said.

"He's done us all an enormous favour."

Prosecutor Liz Nadeau had portrayed Sonne as someone obsessed with explosives and the summit, who was anarchist-friendly, and wanted to "stick it to the system."

But defence lawyer Joe Di Luca said there was no evidence Sonne had any intention to disrupt or harm anything or anyone related to the G20.

At the same time, he acknowledged the pressure police were under in arresting Sonne, who used social media to post scores of photographs of officers, the security fence and surveillance cameras.

"The police had a real concern," Di Luca said. "They had to react given the dynamics of the G20."

Sonne, who was "totally high on happiness," said the judgment freed him to again be "a moron" on the Internet. He said he wanted to get his life and career back on track.

But he was adamant the mammoth security apparatus around the G20 was little more than "nanny-state" theatrics.

"They want people to think they're safe when they're not actually safe," he said.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: Demonstrators protest against the G8/G20 summits June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Store windows were smashed and a police car set on fire during the protest which was one of several planned in the city to coincide with the gathering of world leaders for the G20 and G8 summits being held in Toronto and nearby Muskoka June 25-27. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: A couple kiss in front of the police line during a protest against the G20 summit June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. The kiss was interupted as police charged protestors. Earlier in the day store windows were smashed and a police car was set on fire during the protest which was one of several planned in the city to coincide with the gathering of world leaders for the G20 and G8 summits being held in Toronto and nearby Muskoka June 25-27. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: A young anti-G20 protester carries her message on her chest as other demonstrators smash and loot their way through downtown June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Violent protesters burned police cars, smashed shop fronts and confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order during the first day of the G20 Summit. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Police officers chase demonstrators during the G20 summits June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Police have been making many arrests during the protests including many journalists during this final day of the G20 summit. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    Protesters smash police vehicles in the Toronto's downtown core June 26, 2010 after a small group of anarchists broke from the main anti G20 demonstration and began a destructive march through the downtown. Ten thousand people marched against the G20 summit Saturday to protest for jobs and social causes, in a largely peacefully rally that saw nevertheless saw outbreaks of violence on its fringes. While the main body of the march was a well-marshaled event, led by older activists and organized labor, small groups of young hardliners scuffled with riot officers and set fire to at least two patrol cars. AFP PHOTO / GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: Violent anti-G20 protesters, using Black Bloc tactics, jump on a police car downtown June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Violent protesters burned police cars, smashed shop fronts and confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order during the first day of the G20 Summit. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: A police car burns after violent anti-G20 protesters, using Black Bloc tactics, smashed their way through downtown streets June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Violent protesters burned police cars, smashed shop fronts and confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order during the first day of the G20 Summit. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO - JUNE 25: A demonstrator drops his pants, taunting police in riot gear during a march near the campus of the University of Toronto on the eve of the G20 Summit June 25, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The protests come amid heavy police presence as G8 world leaders met today, with G20 finance ministers meeting tomorrow. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Toronto police officers step aside to allow a street car operator to move a street car out of the protest zone as police prepared to face protestors during a protest at the corner of Queen street and Spidina avenue on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of people, including journalists, were arrested by police in downtown Toronto during the G20 Summit and many were released prior to the 24-hour limit at which time they had to be charged with a crime. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Protestors face off with Toronto police officers during a protest at the corner of Queen street and Spidina avenue on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of people, including journalists, were arrested by police in downtown Toronto during the G20 Summit and many were released prior to the 24-hour limit at which time they had to be charged with a crime. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: A man arrested during protests at the G8/G20 summits is released from a detention center June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Police have been making many arrests during the protests including many journalists during this final day of the G20 summit. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Protesters hold a vigil outside the temporary detention centre where hundreds of anti-G20 demonstrators and others were being held and processed June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of people, including journalists, were arrested by police in downtown Toronto during the G20 Summit and many were released prior to the 24-hour limit at which time they had to be charged with a crime. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO - JUNE 27: Police attempt to clear protestors and make several arrests at a rally outside the temporary G20 police detention center, where over 500 people are now being detained on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Police are ramping up arrests across the city after widespread violence and vandalism plagued the city on the first day of G20 Summit. Burned police cars, smashed shop fronts confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO - JUNE 27: Police attempt to clear protestors and make several arrests at a rally outside the temporary G20 police detention center, where over 500 people are now being detained on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Police are ramping up arrests across the city after widespread violence and vandalism plagued the city on the first day of G20 Summit. Burned police cars, smashed shop fronts confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27: Police use smoke bombs to disperse protestors at a rally outside the temporary G20 police detention center, where over 500 people are now being detained on June 27, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Police are ramping up arrests across the city after widespread violence and vandalism plagued the city on the first day of G20 Summit. Burned police cars, smashed shop fronts confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: A protestor destoys a poster of Justin Bieber during a demonstration against the G8/G20 summits June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Store windows were smashed and a police car set on fire during the protest which was one of several planned in the city to coincide with the gathering of world leaders for the G20 and G8 summits being held in Toronto and nearby Muskoka June 25-27. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    Police stand ready with weapons as the confront protesters during the G8/G20 June 26, 2010 in Toronto. Dozens of protesters were arrested. Some 30,000 people, according to rally organizers, marched against the G20 summit Saturday demonstrating in favor of social causes, in a largely peacefully rally until violence erupted on its fringes. The main body of the march was a well-marshaled event, led by older activists and organized labor, but splinter groups of young hardliners scuffled with riot officers and set fire to three patrol cars. AFP PHOTO /DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    Protesters smash police vehicles in the Toronto's downtown core June 26, 2010 after a small group of anarchists broke from the main anti G20 demonstration and began a destructive march through the downtown. Ten thousand people marched against the G20 summit Saturday to protest for jobs and social causes, in a largely peacefully rally that saw nevertheless saw outbreaks of violence on its fringes. While the main body of the march was a well-marshaled event, led by older activists and organized labor, small groups of young hardliners scuffled with riot officers and set fire to at least two patrol cars. AFP PHOTO / GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: A shattered glass-plate window cascades down as violent anti-G20 protesters, using Black Bloc tactics, smash and loot their way through downtown June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Violent protesters burned police cars, smashed shop fronts and confronted the force of approximately 20,000 police who were charged with keeping order during the first day of the G20 Summit. (Photo by Simon Hayter/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 26: Police officers push back and use their battons to strike demonstrators protesting the G8/G20 summits on June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Store windows were smashed and a police car set on fire during the protest which was one of several planned in the city to coincide with the gathering of world leaders for the G20 and G8 summits being held in Toronto and nearby Muskoka from June 25-27. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators Protest The G20 Summit

    Protesters smash police vehicles in the Toronto's downtown core June 26, 2010 after a small group of anarchists broke from the main anti G20 demonstration and began a destructive march through the downtown. Clashes erupted on the fringes of a large protest march outside the G20 summit in Toronto on Sunday, as hardline protesters set fire to a police car and scuffled with riot officers. AFP PHOTO / GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)



Toronto Police Attack Peaceful Protesters and Journalists at G20 Protests from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.

FOLLOW CANADA POLITICS

Filed by Jacqueline Delange  |