After the accused in an aggravated assault case learned that the lead RCMP investigator went on to allegedly sext the victim in the case, he withdrew his guilty plea.
But in a Kelowna courtroom on Tuesday, 42-year-old Lonnie Smith took responsibility for his actions, pleading guilty to aggravated assault and two counts of uttering threats.
“Certainly Mr. Smith is accepting responsibility today, he is remorseful for his actions and has maintained that he wanted to accept responsibility really from the outset,” defence lawyer Jordan Allingham said.
Court heard that Smith brutally beat a woman over several hours in Lake Country in April 2018.
Back in November 2019, Smith pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and unlawful confinement, which were just two of the several charges he was facing — some of which he believes had been trumped up.
The case then went on to draw widespread attention after allegations surfaced that Const. Sean Eckland, the lead RCMP investigator in the case, had allegedly gone on to send several sexually-explicit messages to the victim of the assault.
The texts allegedly included messages suggesting the victim meet up with Eckland to have sex in the courthouse bathroom on the day they were both slated to testify against Smith.
“Const. Eckland has not been charged. As it stands today, he is not before the courts, so it’s not appropriate for me to guess as to what charges may come down or what he could ultimately be found convicted of,” Allingham said.
“But if the allegations are true, then certainly that should be concerning for all of us,” he added.
After the allegations came to light, Smith submitted an application to withdraw his guilty plea.
In the court application, his lawyer at the time claimed that Eckland admitted his misconduct to Supt. Brent Mundle, the officer-in-charge of the Kelowna detachment at the time.
Crown consented to the guilty plea withdrawal, although noted that none of the allegations contained within the application were addressed in court.
An out-of-town prosecutor was brought in after the first guilty plea was withdrawn.
On Tuesday, court also heard that the victim had initially tried to withdraw some of her earlier statements, although later maintained that they were truthful.
Following Smith’s second guilty plea, in which he admitted to two counts of uttering threats instead of unlawful confinement, the defence and Crown made a joint submission for sentencing.
Lawyers asked for a sentence of 2.5 years, with credit for time served.
The judge agreed, which means Smith will serve another 28.5 months in custody.
“We’ve reviewed the facts of the case. We’ve spoken with the complainant and their family, and the outcome today was just in the circumstances,” Crown counsel Alex Burton said.
“Violence against women is not acceptable in our society,” he said. “And I think that was the message sent today.”
Defence lawyer Cory Armour also said he believed justice was served.
“And I think it’s good if Const. Eckland did what he’s alleged to have done, then I’m glad it’s under investigation,” he added.
None of the allegations against Eckland have been proven in court.
RCMP said the investigation into his alleged misconduct is ongoing.
He’s now been suspended with pay for nearly a year.