by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The self-styled Pigeon King was adamant.
At the beginning of Arlan Galbraith’s Ontario Court of Justice appearance in Kitchener today, Justice Gary Hearn asked the former pigeon breeder three times if he was certain that he wished to represent himself in the complex criminal proceedings against him.
Each time Galbraith, who has been charged with fraud over $5,000 as well as three offenses under the Bankruptcy Act, maintained that certainty.
The founder of the now-defunct Pigeon King International, a business which sold high priced pigeon breeding pairs to farmers and bought back their offspring, fired his lawyer in February. Given three weeks to think about it at that time, Galbraith reiterated his wish to be his own counsel at a court appearance Mar. 19.
Today Justice Hearn referred Galbraith to a document specific to self-representation “on the Ontario Court of Justice Internet site.” The Justice was “trying to stress this is a very serious matter. It is not in your best interest to be representing yourself.”
At the end of today’s appearance, the Justice made it clear to Galbraith that acting on his own behalf would not be easy and warned the defendant that if he wanted to get a lawyer he should do it soon.
Galbraith was charged with fraud in December, 2010. Today the date was set for a preliminary hearing to take place in Kitchener Courtroom 103 on the weeks of Nov. 5 to 9, 19 to 23 and 26 to 30. Melissa Ernewein, assistant crown attorney, told the Justice that the Crown’s office anticipated the preliminary hearing would take six weeks in total, and wanted the first part of the hearing to take three weeks, followed by a six week break and then another three weeks. (Lynn Robinson, the assistant crown attorney who has been handling the case was unavailable today).
The Crown intends to call four witnesses, Ernewein said. Galbraith said he intended to call “15 or 16 witnesses” and that the names had been provided to Robinson after the March court appearance.
Galbraith complained that the Crown had agreed at that time to notify those 16 witnesses on his behalf.
Craig Perry, a local defense lawyer who was in the courtroom for another case, interceded on Galbraith’s behalf. Describing himself as a “friend of the court,” Perry said the Crown “would usually assist” when a defendant was located in a remote area. Galbraith lives north of Cochrane, Ontario, a seven hour drive from Kitchener. Ernewein said she would consult with Robinson.
Galbraith told the Justice he was “not in a position to assess” if enough time was allowed for all of his witnesses to be heard.
Galbraith also told the Justice that he was unable “to interview witnesses, to approach witnesses or instruct them,” because of restrictive bail conditions. (The conditions of Galbraith’s bail are subject to a publication ban.)
“I guess that is a problem you are going to have to address, given that you are your own counsel,” Justice Hearn replied. “I am not going to vary the bail,” adding “the Crown is not going to agree to a variation.”
Galbraith handed his company, Pigeon King International, to a bankruptcy trustee in June, 2008 and creditors petitioned him into personal bankruptcy in 2009. After a lengthy investigation, RCMP and Waterloo Regional Police laid charges against Galbraith in December, 2010.
Galbraith showed up in court today in a dark suit, dark shirt and a wide white tie. BF