PENTICTON - The case against a well-known Penticton street person facing city bylaw charges moved slowly towards a trial date today.
Paul Braun faces eight counts of obstruction under the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw. Braun is well known in the city’s downtown core, and is often seen sitting at the corner of the entrance to the breezeway in the city’s 200 block.
The charges relate to his occupation of that spot at various times last year.
Braun is a well-known street person in the downtown core whose right to sit in the street was also championed by Penticton resident Mike Forster after Braun received a ticket in 2016.
Defence lawyer Paul Varga made his fourth application for disclosure while City of Penticton prosecuting lawyer, Troy DeSouza, expressed his desire to set a trial date following three previous courtroom appearances on the matter.
Varga sought further disclosure from the city, related to city council's decision-making surrounding the creation and adoption of the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw, which was introduced in September 2012.
Varga also hinted he may initiate a constitutional challenge, depending on what further disclosure reveals.
Varga argued the city was specifically after Braun in their enforcement of the bylaw, describing two photos that appeared to show bylaw enforcement personnel targeting him.
At issue for Penticton Provincial Court Judge Michelle Daneliuk this morning, Jan. 25, was whether or not the disclosure items Varga sought were actually available from the city.
DeSouza told the court most of what Varga was seeking could be found in video recordings of the city’s council meetings, posted to the city’s online website.
He said Varga was “fishing in a pond with no fish,” insisting the city had provided volumes of material to Varga.
DeSouza said in his view it was highly unusual to make four court appearances before setting a trial date, adding with each previous court appearance local media wrote about the case.
He handed the judge a copy of a Penticton newspaper with a photo depicting Varga sitting with his client in the 200 block breezeway.
“Our preference is to try this case in a court of law rather than the media,” he told Judge Daneliuk.
Varga asked if it was DeSouza’s intent to request a publication ban, to which he responded, “no.”
Varga entered not guilty pleas on behalf of his client.
His request for further disclosure items, which was agreed to by Judge Daneliuk, included communications between city council members and staff with respect to Braun’s case.
Varga said afterward he will be sitting in support of his client in the breezeway next Tuesday, Jan. 30 at noon, saying he’s providing comfort to Braun who he said, “looks lost and alone.” He said he had extended the invitation to the mayor and members of council.
Varga said it was hard to predict how long the trial might last, noting he and DeSouza confidently predicted today’s proceedings would take a half hour.
“You saw what happened today, we were boasting it would take 30 minutes, and next thing you know, we’re here for the afternoon session as well,” Varga said, adding a pre-trial conference has also been scheduled prior to the trial, set for four days starting Sept. 11.
DeSouza says he was "very pleased" with the outcome of today’s hearing.
“We were getting a little frustrated, because (the trial date) wasn’t being set, and there were all these disclosure requests being made,” he said, adding he was fully aware of his obligation to provide disclosure.
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