Crown prosecutors lost their bid to have two Mohawk activists thrown in jail after a provincial court judge opted to give the men probationary sentences for their involvement in blockades on Highway 2 near Deseronto two years ago.
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory residents Clint Brant, 32, and Matthew Kunkel, 24, were treated to hugs from a throng of relatives and friends inside a Napanee courtroom Tuesday afternoon, moments after Justice Geoff Griffin opted to slap the men with a probationary sentence over the jail term sought after by the Crown.
The Crown was seeking six months in custody for Brant, who was found guilty by Griffin for obstructing a peace officer and dangerous operation of a vehicle (a ATV).
Kunkel was found guilty of possession of a weapon (brass knuckles), unauthorized possession of a weapon, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm. The Crown was seeking a nine month jail term for Kunkel.
Griffin added that Brant has worked diligently to address his actions in several ways such as mentoring young people in the community.
Brant was awarded two for one credit for his 41-day pre-sentencing custody. He was given a one-year driving prohibition. He has to pay $300 in restitution to the Town of Deseronto, coupled with 45 hours of community service on the reserve.
Griffin said that he’s satisfied that a “12-month period of probation would be a appropriate sentence.”
Kunkel was also credited for his 41-day jail term served. He was ordered to serve a two-year probationary period and complete 60 hours of community service. Both men are barred from participating in any unlawful protest.
“I’m of the view that if the Culbertson Tract (land claim) issue had not arisen then Kunkel would not have put on a disguise and armed himself with brass knuckles,” Griffin said before adding that he was motivated to protect the land.
“To place this Mohawk 24-year-old man who suffers from ADHD back in jail when he had so much going for him at the present time, could well result in Kunkel deciding to become the angry belligerent man” as shown in video evidence from 2008, on a full-time basis.
During the sentencing hearings Griffin weighed his decision by applying a principle known as Gladue — a term drawn from a Supreme Court case that is related to attempting to lessen the “over-representation” of native people in jails across Canada.