Former Surrey mayor faced campaign of harassment before foot was run over, lawyer says

Click to play video: 'Defence presents last witnesses at Doug McCallum public mischief trial'
Defence presents last witnesses at Doug McCallum public mischief trial
Defence is expected to wrap tomorrow in Doug McCallum's public mischief trial without the former Surrey mayor taking the stand. Court heard from an orthopedic surgeon who testified a foot may be run over without broken bones. The last witness on the stand was Laurie Guerra a former councillor with McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition. Catherine Urquhart reports – Nov 8, 2022

Surrey’s former mayor was the target of a years-long campaign of “criminal harassment” by a political foe, who eventually ran his foot over in a supermarket parking lot, his lawyer told a B.C. court on Tuesday.

Doug McCallum has pleaded not guilty to a charge of public mischief over claims he made that Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaigner Debi Johnstone ran over his foot outside the Southpoint Save-On-Foods on Sept. 4.

Making his closing submissions, defence lawyer Richard Peck suggested Johnstone had been involved in “toxic fanaticism,” disrupting McCallum and his political allies at council and in their personal lives.

Click to play video: 'Defence presenting at Doug McCallum public mischief trial'
Defence presenting at Doug McCallum public mischief trial

“What may have begun as a political disagreement devolved. It devolved into unrelenting animosity towards McCallum and his fellow councilors at city hall,” he said.

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That context is crucial to understand what happened when Johnstone spied McCallum from her Ford Mustang as she drove through the grocer’s parking lot, he told the court.

“For him, (the trip to the grocery store is) a matter of routine, it’s a break from the hurly-burly of his daily elected role. For her it’s an opportunity,” he said.

“In her words, ‘this was my lucky day.’ She seized this opportunity to verbally attack and demean McCallum in public.”

Following the verbal exchange between the two, Johnstone drove off recklessly and without warning, Peck said.

He said Johnstone’s rear wheels cut an inside track as she turned, recalling expert witness testimony from mechanical engineer Bradley Heinrichs, which is when he said the mayor’s foot was run over.

Johnstone, who was yelling that the mayor was “evil” as she drove away, may not have even realized she struck him, he told the court.

Subsequent errors in the mayor’s recollection of events, including claims he made to police that he was “pinned” against his vehicle, were the result of him being upset and agitated by the shocking experience, Peck said.

“This for him was a frightening, disturbing event, and there was no doubt that such events can lead to misperception,” he said.

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McCallum voluntarily went to the police, told them to collect CCTV footage from the supermarket, and signed off on the release of his personal medical records, Peck said, suggesting these aren’t the actions of someone making a false report.

And he recalled testimony from two expert witnesses who said the soft tissue injury shown in his medical report is consistent with a foot coming in contact with a tire.

Peck also took aim at the RCMP investigation, which he said moved with surprising speed from seeing McCallum as a victim to investigating him.

He said the investigative team quickly grew to a dozen officers who were skeptical of the mayor’s claims, without having even viewed the CCTV footage.

“But at that point, McCallum is already transitioning into a suspect. Why?” he said, suggesting police never bothered to follow up with McCallum to clarify any confusion over his statements.

“It didn’t happen. The rhetorical question is, ‘Why?’”

Crown’s theory remains that McCallum intended to mislead police with false statements, with the goal of having them investigate Johnstone. Crown is expected to begin its closing submissions on Wednesday.

History of disputes


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Earlier Tuesday, former city councillor Laurie Guerra, a member of McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition party, testified Tuesday as the final witness for the defence.

Guerra testified that Johnstone and opponents of the city’s municipal police transition would often turn up at city events “where there were families and kids.” Rather than setting up tables in designated areas outside the events, they would campaign inside where “they weren’t supposed to be,” she told the court.

She was at one such festival with McCallum when she was approached by a woman she later learned was Johnstone, she added.

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“We heard someone yelling at us and swearing at us, and we both looked at each other and said, ‘Did you hear what I think she said?'” Guerra testified.

“It was expletives, swearing and yelling. It was quite shocking … From an attractive older woman it was a bit bizarre.”

Click to play video: 'Defence presenting at Doug McCallum public mischief trial'
Defence presenting at Doug McCallum public mischief trial

Guerra said she asked both city staff and RCMP at the event to remove the campaigners, but was told they would not.

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Johnstone also hurled abuse at her during a December 2019 council meeting focusing on the city’s budget, she testified.

Global News has previously reported hundreds of people attended that meeting, which descended into a chaotic scene.

Guerra said Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaigners, who had been banned from bringing signs into the council chambers, arrived in matching t-shirts and became disruptive.

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“It was very frightening, what happened. We thought there might be a riot,” she said.

“I remember Debi looking at council … there was so many displays of her facial features, bizarre facial expressions that were over-exaggerated, kind of goofy-looking — I don’t know a better way to describe it, and at that meeting, she told me to go F myself.”

In a third incident, she told the court Johnstone and another person went to her home with a Keep the RCMP in Surrey sign, leading her family to call the police.

“It completely changes the dynamic when people come to your home, and in my opinion, the line has been crossed,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Day two of Doug McCallum’s public mischief trial features recorded statement made to police'
Day two of Doug McCallum’s public mischief trial features recorded statement made to police

Foot expert testifies

Earlier Tuesday, the court heard from an orthopedic surgeon with a specialization in foot and ankle injuries.

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Dr. Kevin Wing, who teaches at the University of British Columbia and has consulted for the Workers Compensation Board, told the court he had reviewed McCallum’s medical records and excerpts from two phone calls reporting the incident.

He said records showed McCallum had reported tingling and mild, dull pain to the top of the foot, and had been diagnosed with a contusion.

“To me, it’s just very, very consistent with the diagnosis and mechanism of something happening in conjunction with this brief interaction with this vehicle,” he said.

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Wing further agreed it was possible for someone to suffer soft tissue injuries to their foot by twisting or turning as they reacted to sudden stimuli, like a car passing quickly and closely.

Under cross-examination, Wing agreed the clinical care record filled out by the attending physician on Sept. 4 showed McCallum had told doctors his left foot was run over, that the clinical report noted “no visible swelling,” and that there was no description in the records of what was observable on the surface of his foot.

The physician also told the court that it would be unusual for an emergency room doctor to compare the left and right foot when someone came in with a complaint about just one foot.

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Click to play video: 'Surveillance video shows incident at centre of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s public mischief trial'
Surveillance video shows incident at centre of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s public mischief trial

Last week, the court heard from a biomechanical engineer who said having one’s foot run over would not necessarily result in any broken bones.

The trial has also previously heard how Johnstone saw McCallum in the Save-On-Foods parking lot and engaged him in an expletive-laden, “heated debate” while still seated in her car.

McCallum later called 911 and made an in-person police report alleging Johnstone had nearly pinned him with her vehicle, and run over his foot while she drove away.

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The court has seen CCTV footage of the incident, however, McCallum’s foot and the rear of Johnstone’s vehicle are not clearly visible in the footage.

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The lead RCMP investigator in the case has testified that despite the footage being inconclusive, there was other evidence suggesting McCallum had made a false report, including the fact he walked away from the interaction in no apparent pain.

McCallum’s defence maintains his foot was, in fact, run over and that the facts of the case show he did not commit public mischief, even if he had advertently or inadvertently embellished any details in his report to police.

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