A Sudbury man who called for the execution of former premier Kathleen Wynne during the 2018 provincial election because she is a lesbian will spend the next 30 days in jail.
The hate crime conviction was the third for David Popescu, a perennial fringe candidate in Sudbury.
“The appropriate sentence in this matter, in a pre-pandemic world, would be 90 days to be served intermittently followed by a term of probation of two years,” Ontario Court Justice Heather-Ann Mendes said Wednesday at the Sudbury Courthouse. “However, I must consider the world of today, a third wave (of COVID-19) and another lockdown. In the circumstances, 30 days jail to be served straight time followed by two years’ probation.”
Popescu was convicted on Sept. 24, 2020, of willfully promoting hatred of an identifiable group — homosexuals.
Mendes said a pre-sentence report found that Popescu had no intention of changing his beliefs, was not repentant for what he did, and will continue to spread hatred regardless of the penalty she imposed.
“The TSLGBTQ community is a vulnerable group that has historically been oppressed,” she said. “This group is entitled to respect and human dignity. The fact that Mr. Popescu lacks any sense of remorse and insight into the seriousness of his crime and that he intends to re-offend disallows him to any leniency.”
After learning of the jail term, Popescu said he had some extensive roofing work to do on the apartment building he manages in the Donovan and asked for an intermittent sentence.
Mendes said that because of COVID-19 and the risk to inmates’ health, intermittent sentences are not happening in Ontario right now.
Popsecu did not take the jail sentence well.
“I will change if you can prove me wrong under the word of God,” he told Mendes. “I think whoever reads the (court) transcript will see ample proof of that.”
Mendes said her decision was not open to being reworked.
“Mr. Popescu: I passed my sentence,” she said. “It is what it is.”
Popescu, however, was determined to make his point he should not be jailed.
“Whoever scrolls the transcript will touch on that hatred is still by God’s actions,” he said. “My literature always said that it’s your responsibility as the government. It’s the court’s responsibility to carry out the penalties. I have always been clear on that point. If you prove me wrong under the word of God, I will change.”
Before Mendes gave her sentencing decision, assistant Crown attorney Leonard Kim told the court that Sudbury Jail administration told him there had not been a COVID-10 outbreak at the facility, nor were there any positive cases at the moment.
After Mendes gave her decision, Kim asked that a condition be included in Popescu’s probation order that he not publish any literature that contains references to Wynne or the LBGTQ community.
Popescu’s trial was held over four days in November 2019 and January 2020, with Mendes reserving her decision. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic delayed that decision until September.
Greater Sudbury Police charged Popescu in 2018 after receiving complaints. He ran in the election as an independent religious candidate, distributing anti-gay material and videos.
He never denied handing out the material, and admitted to distributing 450 DVDs, but had plans to give out 800.
“I just suggested as scripture states,” said Popescu told police. “I believe there is Godly hatred that should not be criminalized … I stated God has judged southern Ontario for electing someone he has called abominable. God commands government to put (Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne) to death …
“I believe that in the eyes of the law, I have a precedent to continue what I was doing. So, I did … I’m just being true to God’s word. I’m not for any vigilante action. It should be government-mandated if there is a Godly government.”
In his testimony Popescu said when charges of inciting hatred and advocating genocide were dismissed in a Sudbury courtroom in 2015 (they were actually withdrawn by a Crown attorney) due to no reasonable prospect of conviction, he left convinced he could go on presenting his Biblical views.
Kim, the prosecutor, argued Popescu could not use the right to free speech the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants to defend his views.
Justice Mendes agreed.
“In this case, the material created and distributed by Mr. Popescu specifically states that ‘God calls for good government to put her to death,’ referring to the former Premier Wynne. “This is a clear call to action with violence and as such does not fall within the gambit of the freedom of expression envisioned by Section 2b of the Charter.”
This is not Popescu’s first brush the law. He was convicted on Aug. 7, 2009, of promoting hatred by telling high school students that homosexuals should be executed. He was given a suspended sentence.
The comment was made during an all-candidates meeting at the school during the 2008 federal election.
He was convicted of a second such offence that same year.
Popescu was also convicted in March 2006 of assaulting his 89-year-old mother by grabbing her arm and shaking her lightly. He did not serve jail time.
At a Jan. 15 sentencing hearing, Kim said Popescu is not getting the message to stop attacking homosexuals.
“These are not the views of a credible Christian denomination,” he said. “Mr. Popescu is absolutely entitled, like any other member of society, to freedom of expression and religion.
“He is not entitled to espousing his own views of hatred, for killing another human being, for no reason other than sexual orientation … The harm to our Sudbury community is universal and obvious.”
A community victim impact statement written by Alex Tetreault of Pride Sudbury, which Kim read to the court, said Popescu’s never-ending message of condemnation of homosexuals is upsetting.
“Mr. Popescu’s hateful messages have a profound social and emotional impact on members of the 2SLBGTQ community,” said Tetreault. “As a historically oppressed group, the community has long faced this type of message. The statements by Mr. Popescu have long been used to harm the members.”
Tetreault said Popescu’s messages of hate can spur some people in Greater Sudbury who share the same views to take action against homosexuals. They can also convince 2SLBGTZ members that their lives are not worth living, cause mental health issues, and convince people who were thinking of coming out about their sexual preferences to remain in hiding due to fear.
In his sentencing submission, Popescu, who acted as his own lawyer, said he was simply repeating God’s disdain for homosexuals as expressed in the Bible.
“Left to our own, we (mankind) don’t stand a chance at lawmaking,” he said. “We need the valued, compelling law of God over the ages … This is absolute grounds for discarding these accusations. This is grounds for dismissal of any criminality of the word of God.
“It’s not to be dismissed as picking and choosing (of Biblical scripture) by me … Is the Bible on trial? This is clearly a political attempt to manipulate God’s will on politics.”
Popescu said he hoped his messages helped to prevent impressionable youth from living a gay lifestyle. “I hope and pray God converts homosexuals.”
He also said Christian churches today fail to take a strong stand against homosexuality for fear of losing financial support and members.
“All they say is ‘God loves the sinner, he hates the sin,” said Popescu. “That is not true … Jesus, God destroys the wicked …
“Just because the church won’t publicly talk about this doesn’t mean I’m some kind of haywire liar.”