Canadian pro-lifer Mary Wagner’s been jailed four months, but the Crown wants more after her conviction this week
TORONTO, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Judge Mavin Wong convicted pro-life prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner of two counts of breaching a probation order and one of mischief following a one-day trial April 16 at the Ontario Court of Justice in College Park.
But Wong postponed Wagner’s sentencing until May 5 after asking prosecutor Craig Power if the Crown was seeking a “further period of custody.” When Power replied yes, Wong requested a pre-sentence report listing Wagner’s previous convictions.
Wagner has been in jail since her December 23, 2014 arrest at the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic, where, according to evidence heard at the trial, she attempted to hand red roses and cards on fetal development to three women there that morning, and to counsel at least one, albeit unsuccessfully, against imminently aborting her child.
The trial proceeded fitfully with frequent recesses as Power, a young, slightly built man with a neatly trimmed beard, attempted to contact errant witnesses and “wrangle up some evidence,” as he put it to Wong, a remark she later scolded him for when rebuking the Crown for apparent unreadiness: “This is unacceptable.”
“My frustration is equal to or exceeds that of the court,” replied Power, rather tersely.
“The court is not here to assist the Crown,” Wong said, who had a mass of black hair and a manner so matter-of-fact it bordered on brusque. “We need to move this through now.”
Wong recalled that Wagner had appeared before her on March 5, but did not speak or cooperate with the court, so the judge then appointed Justine Fitzgerald as an amicus or “friend of the court” to assist in dealing with this situation.
Fitzgerald told the court April 16 that Wagner was “articulate” and had informed her in a “kind” and “non-contemptuous” way that she was “choosing not to represent herself.”
Wagner did not speak, enter a plea, call witnesses or take any steps in her own defence.
Rather, the slender, dark-haired 41-year-old, dressed in dark green prison garb, sat quietly in the glass-walled prisoner’s dock, although she smiled warmly at her 15 or so supporters, who stood up when she was led, handcuffed, into the courtroom.
Those included Father Piotr Baltarowicz of Poland, who concelebrated Mass at the Vanier Centre for Women on April 15 with three other priests and a bishop, a Mass attended by Wagner and 11 inmates, or “sisters in green” as she allegedly calls them.
Fr. Piotr took advantage of the frequent breaks to lead supporters, most of whom were Polish-Canadians, in prayer. Ordered out of the courtroom just before 3:00 p.m. so the judge could prepare her ruling, they stood in a circle in the courthouse hall reciting the Divine Mercy in Polish, then turned to face the courtroom while continuing to pray.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald pointed out the Crown’s disclosures of evidence were incomplete. Constable Tim Deacon’s notes were illegible in places, and she did not have a record of the 911 call the day of the arrest.
Power asserted Fitzgerald was being “overly diligent” and that it was possible to “discern” a sense of events from the notes, but Wong ruled for procedural exactitude.
That left the problem, as she said: “How do we start the trial now without legible notes?” Or without a recording of the 911 call, so that Wagner and Fitzgerald could hear it.
By 11:15, however, the Crown had overcome these evidentiary difficulties and assembled five witnesses: Toronto police constables Steve Petrakis, Tim Deacon, and Matthew Mackenzie, Wagner’s probation officer Liana Mischianti, and abortion clinic staff worker Nadine Clark.
Judge Wong entered a plea of not guilty on Wagner’s behalf.
Clark testified that Wagner entered the abortion clinic behind a woman who had been “buzzed in,” but only after “I heard a commotion in the waiting room” five minutes later did she look into the waiting room and recognize Wagner.
She testified that of the three women present, one was crying, “tears were coming, her face was red” and her husband was obviously upset. “I took the patients to the back,” leaving Wagner and the irate husband in the waiting room, Clark told Power.
She did not ask the woman why she was crying, Clark said, adding that after leaving the waiting room, she could hear “the husband” speaking to Wagner in a loud, angry voice, but could not hear Wagner’s responses.
A tall African-Canadian with multiple braids fastened together in a ponytail, Clark said Wagner had red roses and cards with “a picture of a baby… a small infant” on them that she inserted in the magazines in the waiting room.
She did not listen to Wagner, testified Clark. “I didn’t want to hear what she was saying… she was rambling,” and speaking “in relation to saving babies but I didn’t know exactly what she said.”
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Clark testified that the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic, located at 2425 Bloor Street West, does nothing but abortions.
Police officers Deacon and Petrakis testified to attending to the scene, asking Wagner to leave, and ultimately arresting her. Power asked Deacon not to testify about what Wagner said, but only relate what happened.
Wong also questioned the witnesses, asking Fitzgerald and Wagner each time if they wanted to do so as well. At Wagner’s silence, Wong stated, “No response.” At the trial’s start, the judge carefully explained court procedures, taking pains to establish that Wagner understood what was happening, and that she had freely chosen not to defend herself.
In closing remarks, Power argued that Wagner was guilty of mischief by her “willful action, intentional action, sneaking in behind another patient, confronting another woman with her views” on a day already “difficult” for that woman.
Fitzgerald, however, argued that according to the evidence, there was “reasonable doubt that the interference was more than trivial,” and it was speculation to say the woman was crying because of Wagner’s actions, as “the reason a person would be there is laden with emotion.”
“I don’t know if it’s speculation,” countered Wong. “She’s fine, Ms. Wagner approaches, she’s crying. It’s a reasonable inference to make.”
Wong’s ruling, delivered verbally by the judge after a short recess, found Wagner guilty of mischief. Wagner, “armed with red roses and business cards” had “surreptitiously entered” the abortion clinic which was “conducting legally sanctioned medical procedures” and her “intention was to interfere with its business.”
With Wagner’s arrival, the “otherwise peaceful atmosphere was disrupted” and “patients had to be moved to a secure private area” and “the police called.”
Wong also convicted Wagner of breaching her June 12, 2014 probation order on two counts: not keeping the peace, and not remaining 100 metres away from an abortion clinic.
Although Wagner did not speak during her trial, Polish priest Fr. Piotr gave an eloquent testimony on her behalf to LifeSiteNews, speaking through interpreter Jon Parr Vijinski, who also helped organize the April 15 Mass at Vanier Centre.
Fr. Piotr said he traveled from Poland to succour and be in solidarity with both Mary and pro-life prisoner of conscience Linda Gibbons, in what he called “a pilgrimage to the sanctuary behind bars.”
Gibbons, also currently incarcerated in Vanier, is scheduled for a video appearance at College Park on April 21 for charges following a March 24, 2015 arrest at an east York abortuary.
“It’s named this because knowing Mary, I can detect a person of great faith who prays in prison,” Fr. Piotr said, adding that people’s prayers for Wagner flow back to her. “There is a spiritual union of many people.”
Mary is responding to abortion in a “normal way” whereas the law is “abnormal,” the priest, who spoke quickly and often passionately, told LifeSiteNews. “The state is defending an indefensible law."
In Mary Wagner “we have someone to come forward to speak, to save the child, to draw attention that a mother has a child and there is a life. Mary is coming forward person-to-person” to point this out “with great delicacy and love. This attracts people. They are moved.”
Mary also is a person of faith, noted the pastor of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Siemylow, Poland, and “without faith we cannot build anything in truth.” Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Faith and reason are the two wings on which the person will be raised to contemplation of the truth.”
Wagner, concluded Fr. Piotr, who returns to Poland April 20, “is the voice that awakens a person’s conscience, because she asks, ‘Are we behaving like a person, or a Christian? We are not Christian. Are we even people? If a person kills another person, we are no longer human.’”
Wagner has been arrested seven times in her attempts to save unborn children and women from the violence of abortion, and has spent upwards of three-and-a-half years in jail.
Wong will sentence Wagner May 5 at 10:00, in Room 504 at College Park Court.