Perennial fringe election candidate David Popescu, who is known for his extreme Christian beliefs, faces the “very real prospect” of jail time, said Ontario Court Justice Heather-Ann Mendes in court today.
Crown attorney Leonard Kim is seeking a five-month jail sentence and two years of probation following submissions on Friday.
This is Popescu’s third conviction for wilfully spreading hatred, and that’s a significant aggravating factor, said Kim.
Popescu’s previous two convictions, for which he was given a conditional sentence and probation, did nothing to stop him from continuing to preach his hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community.
“Enough is enough,” said Kim. “We have a collective duty to protect everyone, no matter who they are.”
Another “highly aggravating” factor in sentencing Popescu to jail is that he shows no remorse for the “hurtful words” he has communicated in Sudbury, and there is every indication he will continue to spread that hate without regret, said Kim.
Kim said Popescu is adamant his religious beliefs are justified, and he will continue to spread his message regardless of the outcome of his sentencing.
A jail sentence would send a message to others of a similar religious belief that these actions will not be tolerated, said Kim. While Popescu has never engaged in an act of physical harm towards anyone, his rhetoric might inspire violence against members of the LGBTQ community, simply for being who they are.
“We are dealing with a global pandemic, times of pressure, of frustration, and the concern of the Crown is when Mr. Popescu spreads a message of hatred, others who hold the same views might look for scapegoats, and the LGBTQ community is an easy target for those who are open to persuasion.”
In arriving at a jail sentence of five months, Kim said he has to balance Popescu’s age (he’s 73) with the fact the world is dealing with a deadly virus. Being in jail during an outbreak might put him at higher risk, but there has been no reported outbreaks at the Sudbury jail, Kim said.
He said the degree of hatred for homosexuals held by Popescu is “at the highest,” given the fact in the past he has called for the death of former premier Kathleen Wynne for nothing other than her sexual orientation.
Instead of submitting what he thinks his sentence should be, Popescu, who defended himself, used his time to quote Bible scripture to try and persuade Mendes his conviction was unconscionable in the first place, arguing what the Bible says is absolute.
“It’s not to be interpreted as me picking and choosing what information I want,” Popescu said.
He opened his submissions with a prayer, and told the court he was alarmed at the Crown’s lack of the word of God in their sentencing submissions.
“It’s not my criticism, and it’s very well documented in the word of God,” he said.
In addressing Mendes, Popescu said “I don’t think you’ve done your homework in reading my submission that backs up God’s condemnation of sinners. God gave us the law. God is the god of truth.”
He called the entire court case, from the charges being laid to his finding of guilt, “shocking.”
“The Charter of Rights is to guarantee rights under God, and the word of God clearly condemns all sexual perversion,” he said.
Popescu told the court he was never for any vigilante actions, and that he always spoke against it, “but these warnings are to serve as a deterrent to any youth or adult that might think gay is good,” he said.
Kim told the court Popescu is entitled to believe what he does, but at the end of the day, Popescu did not submit anything about what he believes an appropriate sentence would be for himself.
Mendes told Popescu there’s “a very real prospect I will be sentencing you to jail time.”
As such, she reserved her decision to consider submissions.
“I am most reluctant to give a decision today in the midst of a global pandemic and a provincewide shutdown,” Mendes said.
She adjourned the matter for eight weeks, “so we can assess where the pandemic is” at that time. The matter will return to court April 7. The Crown is expected to provide a letter from Sudbury jail regarding any cases of COVID-19.