Perennial fringe candidate David Popescu has been found guilty, for the second time, of willfully promoting hatred of an identifiable group - homosexuals.
Provincial court Justice Heather-Ann Mendes delivered her verdict Wednesday afternoon. A presentence report has been ordered, and the matter will return to court Nov. 13 for sentencing submissions.
Crown attorney Leonard Kim said following the verdict his office is contemplating seeking a term of custody, meaning Popescu faces possible jail time.
“I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the homemade election materials compiled on DVDs and cover jackets are designed to promote hatred,” Mendes said. “I have no doubt Mr. Popescu’s statements were made with the clear intention of targeting an identifiable group in an attempt to promote hatred against members of the LGBTQ community under the guise of politics and religion.”
She said the statements contained within the DVD and its cover jacket could be extremely dangerous, inviting people to action against homosexuals.
Popescu was charged in 2018 after someone complained to Greater Sudbury Police about DVDs they found in their apartment complex. Court heard that Popescu had distributed the DVDs, which contained homophobic material.
The court heard over the course of four days Popescu was on trial that he believes the bible states that “homosexuals are worthy of death, under God’s death penalty.”
Throughout the trial, Popescu attempted to minimize the impact of his statements by saying it’s God who hates homosexuals and he is simply repeating the word of God. He told Mendes at the time God’s law is above that of man, and cannot be criminalized.
The trial wrapped up Jan. 17, 2020. A verdict was expected much sooner, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced courts to close.
In rendering her verdict, Mendes said the DVDs invite those who view it to take aggressive and violent action against homosexuals by calling for the death of former Premier Kathleen Wynne due to her sexual orientation. She also said the clear conclusion from anyone who reads or views the materials is that homosexuals are worthy of death and should be put to death because of their sexuality.
Mendes said Popescu has promoted his “hateful world views” in the guise of a religious decree and used running for political office as a platform to deliver those views. She said he has used the Bible as a cover for his “hateful beliefs.”
“I find Mr. Popescu has taken passages from the Bible and added his hateful motives to sensationalize his distributed materials to grab people’s attention and spread his violent and cruel messages under the guise of religion during election times,” Mendes said.
She said if it was simply a matter of Popescu circulating and distributing materials that stated he stands for good government and a re-education process with a focus on biblical teachings, that would be one thing.
“However, Mr. Popescu’s materials go far beyond such a statement,” Mendes said. “I find his materials specifically utilize aggressive and violent verbiage intended to send a message of shock and horror, calling individuals to action against the identifiable group of homosexuals and, specifically, members of the LGBTQ community.”
The DVDs contained only a few short lines about the government trying to legislate about issues of perceived sexual perversion, she said. On the other hand, it was rife with hours of “spiteful material,” and there can be no other interpretation other than the message is a blatant call to arms to kill Wynne.
The words he uses in the DVD and other materials are “obviously violent, aggressive and vile and are specifically chosen to provoke the public and incite hatred toward members of the LGBTQ community, Mendes said.
Popescu was convicted of promoting hatred in 2009 after telling a group of high school students that "homosexuals should be executed," remarks he made during a candidates debate for the federal election. He was sentenced to 18 months probation.
In December 2015, similar charges levied against Popescu were withdrawn. Popescu said during the trial he took that as a green light to continue distributing his DVDs and spreading his message.
For his part, Popescu said a guilty verdict and possible jail time won’t stop him from running in election campaigns and continuing to spread his interpretation of God’s word.
He doesn’t plan on appealing the decision.
“God’s everywhere, including jail, and when I was incarcerated for a few days when I was arrested, I had more freedom to speak of God’s standards in jail than I did in the eyes of the court here,” Popescu said.
He said he thinks Mendes picked and chose her particular opinion over facts that clearly spoke of the Biblical perspective.
“I answer to a higher court, and the word of God,” he said. “Anyone who is familiar with the word of God knows my harsh comments are biblically based.