Charlottetown trial takes bizarre twists

John James MacLean, 55, of Pleasant Grove Road was up for dangerous driving, not stopping for an accident plus evading police but tries a form of free-man-on-the-land defence

Published on June 25, 2014

Prince Edward Island provincial court

©Guardian photo

A kind of free-man-on-the-land trial took strange twists in a Charlottetown court Wednesday as a man kept pretending he wasn't on trial, then walked out of the courtroom.

John James MacLean, 55, of Pleasant Grove Road was on trial for charges of dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and evading police in connection with a motor vehicle hit-and-run Jan. 2.

He was in provincial court before Judge Nancy Orr.

MacLean said the trial was a fraud because he wasn't the man named on the informations before the court.

"That's not me," he said.

John James MacLean was just a name on some documents that belonged to the government, a name that he just had the use of, he tried to tell the court.

Several times when the name John James MacLean was referenced he would question who that was, saying it wasn't him.

When he was told "that is you", he would ask the court "who's you?"

For what seemed like a very long time, MacLean tried to argue the issue of his own identity, continually interrupting the Crown and the judge when they tried to say anything he didn't agree with.

Orr repeatedly told MacLean to stop interrupting.

In turn, MacLean repeatedly denied that he was.

"I'm not interrupting, I'm objecting," MacLean said.

Orr tried to tell MacLean that his identity was not an issue, that she had accepted the documentation he himself had provided - including a driver's licence with his picture on it and a birth certificate - as proof that he was indeed John James MacLean.

But he would have none of that.

Over MacLean's continuous objections, Crown Counsel Gerald Quinn identified MacLean as someone who subscribed to the free-man-on-the-land ideology.

"Freemen (or Sovereign Citizens, Living Souls or Natural Persons, as they sometimes call themselves) believe that all ­statute law is contractual," says a briefing note by the Law Society of British Columbia. "They further believe that law only governs them if they choose or consent to be governed. By implication, they believe that, by not consenting, they can hold themselves independent of government jurisdiction."

Quinn read from case law which suggests that courts  attach no merit or weight to ideological arguments advanced by those espousing such views.

Throughout all of this MacLean objected profusely, rising numerous times to speak his mind despite orders from the bench to sit down and let Quinn speak.

Rising from the defence table he told Orr his business was done there and walked out.

MacLean had been duly advised that the trial could proceed without him but that did not deter him.

He essentially told the court to go ahead because he wasn't staying.

Not even a warning from Orr that he could be charged with contempt of court if he left the courtroom could keep him there.

In his absence the trial proceeded and MacLean was ultimately found guilty of all charges.

Testimony presented by police and civilian witnesses indicated that on the night in question, MacLean came off an off-ramp the wrong way and struck another vehicle, causing $5,000 to $6,000 in damages.

He did not stop to see if the driver of the other vehicle was hurt or offer his name and insurance documentation.

Instead he continued on, refusing to stop for police who responded to the accident.

Several vehicles pursued MacLean but they stopped the pursuit after MacLean accelerated to speeds that officers believed could pose a danger to the public.

At Belvedere Avenue and University he was moving at such speed that the front of the car struck the pavement causing sparks to fly.

He narrowly missed a police car by inches.

At one point after being boxed in by police he was able to escape, accelerating while a police officer who stopped him still had his arm inside the window of the car.

None of those who testified had any trouble identifying him.

Orr has now adjourned the case for sentence and issued an order for MacLean's arrest.