Here's what we know from the first few days of Curtis Sagmoen's trial - InfoNews

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Here's what we know from the first few days of Curtis Sagmoen's trial

Curtis Sagmoen leaves the Vernon courthouse Sept. 9.
September 17, 2019 - 1:06 PM

VERNON - Shortly after Curtis Sagmoen was arrested by the RCMP on Sept. 5, 2017, near his family's property on Salmon River Road, he told police he wanted to see his mom.

Sagmoen mentions his mother multiple times during his first 24 hours in police custody, often asking about her welfare, and sometimes getting angry when police mention her. At one point he tells police she is one of the only three things he cares about, along with his dad and his dog.

Video footage played in court shows that although Sagmoen stayed relatively calm throughout his police interview, during one explosive burst of anger Sagmoen attempted to throw a chair across the interview room. In another outburst, he screamed "I'm not even upset yet,” when an officer said she understoods why he was upset. At one point Sagmoen went into a long, inaudible rant, saying that the police watching him on camera in another room were laughing at him.

The details offer a tiny glimpse into Sagmoen's personal life and came from testimony heard over the first four days of his trial that started at the Vernon courthouse Sept. 9.

The 38-year-old is standing trial charged with five counts relating an incident which occurred near his parent's property Aug. 27 and 28, 2017, where he allegedly pointed a gun at a sex worker. Sagmoen was charged with covering his face with intent to commit an offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless to the life or safety of another person, threatening to cause death or bodily harm while using a firearm, uttering threats and possession of methamphetamine.

All details from the trial had been barred following a publication ban that remained in place until today, Sept. 17. Commissioned by the CBC and Global Okanagan, lawyer Marco Vesely successfully argued the case against the ban in Vernon Sept. 16, which lead to Justice Alison Beames lifting the restriction that had prevented the media from reporting on any of the details of the trial.

Defence lawyer Lisa Helps had argued all details from the voir dire - a kind of trial within a trial - should be covered by a publication ban. According to court documents filed by the lawyer, information from the voir dire "will touch" on two other investigations: an upcoming trial scheduled for December where Sagmoen is facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm, and an "ongoing investigation" that "could result in murder charges." The court documents do not specify any details regarding a possible murder charge and say it is "speculative at this point."

In October 2017 the remains of Tracy Genereaux's body were discovered on Sagmoen's family's property. No charges have been laid in relation to that case. If police know how she died, they haven't said.

In the voir dire, the defence argued statements made by Samoen following his arrest weren't "voluntary" requiring a ruling by Beames.

The court heard how on the night of Aug. 27, 2017 Sagmoen had called an escort from the online site backpage.ca. At arriving at an address near the property, the escort found the gate locked and then a man appeared holding a shotgun. She said the man shot one of the tires on her vehicle, causing her to flee on foot.

During the first four days of trial, the court heard how Sagmoen lived in a fifth wheel on his parents Salmon River Road property. He was arrested Sept. 5, 2017, after police obtained a warrant for his arrest and to search his property.

Police pulled Sagmoen's truck over in the afternoon and Sagmoen cooperated during his arrest.

The trial so far has largely consisted of testimony from several police officers who took part in the original arrest and shows Sagmoen's first 24 hours in custody.

Police footage showed Sagmoen initially relaxed, sitting in the police interview room, leaning back with his legs outstretched. As the questioning continues, his demeanour changes and he sits almost curled up with his head in his hands. At one point his head is rested on a desk in the room and Sagmoen appears to be crying.

The testimony gives snippets into the suspect's life, although audio heard in court is very difficult to understand due to Sagmoen's lack of teeth. Sagmoen was not wearing his false teeth when he was arrested, and throughout his interview with police it is difficult to understand him.

Throughout the hearing, the court heard step-by-step procedures of Sagmoen's first 24 hours in custody, with the Crown playing lengthy audio and video recordings made by police during and after his arrest.

The first morning following his arrest, RCMP officer Richard McQueen said he found Sagmoen in his cell, sobbing and appearing to hyperventilate, although he quickly calmed down.

McQueen took Sagmoen for several cigarette breaks throughout that time, where the two talked about fishing and hunting, and the officer asked the accused about his life.

The court heard how Sagmoen had a daughter from a previous relationship but hadn't seen her in eight years.

Sagmoen admitted to contacting four escorts and said he has had an online dating profile on plentyoffish.com, but he doesn't use it much because "most of the time it's a disaster," he said. He said he doesn't take many drugs and he hardly drinks.

Sagmoen's responses to questions about women are vague, and he often replied "I don't remember."

McQueen said neighbours had reported seeing Sagmoen "on the mountain" near his property taking a girl for a ride on a quad.

He later denied calling escorts saying "I don't have money to throw away."

The brief answers to the questions came after hours of the officer chatting and repetitively asking Sagmoen about his life.

The court heard how Sagmoen had lost his construction job in January 2017 and keeps to himself. He said he doesn't like it when people think of him as a drug addict because he has no teeth.

Throughout the four days of testimony, the court heard Sagmoen owned three guns, one with a scope, and did a lot of fishing. The conversations between McQueen and Sagmoen are slow, with Sagmoen's answers short and muffled.

On several occasions, Sagmoen told the officer he will tell him everything if he turns the video recorder off.

McQueen asked Sagmoen about an incident "a few years back" where a female accused the suspect of hitting her with a hammer.

"I honestly don't remember that," Sagmoen replied.

Conversation also centred around Sagmoen's phone and allowing the police access to it, a subject that Sagmoen often responds to in anger.

Sagmoen had an outburst when police told him they seized his parent's computer and will be looking through it.

In the voir dire, defence lawyer Lisa Helps said Sagmoen's statements to police should not be entered into evidence, saying he was "induced."

Helps pointed out that mentions of Sagmoen's family, and particularly his mother, triggered an emotional response from the accused.

Helps argued police used "emotional language" and used talking about Sagmoen's family as a "lever."

Crown lawyer Simone McCallum disputed this, arguing Sagmoen chose when and when not to speak and asserted his right to silence when needed.

Crown argues just because an interview after an arrest is not agreeable does not mean it shouldn't happen.

"You don't have a right not to be spoken to," McCallum said.

The defence also argued Sagmoen was denied the right to counsel, except when first arrested at the side of the road.

The Crown agued Sagmoen was offered counsel on several occasions when at the police station, and he refused each time.

Justice Alison Beames said she hoped to make a decision on the voir dire Sept. 16. The trial proper is expected to resume in December.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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