A Salmon Arm man who was facing charges of criminal harassment and counselling another person to commit an offence has been found not guilty.
Victor Keith Chancellor was facing one count of counselling another person, Todd Grayston, to commit an indictable offence – an assault – that was not committed, as well as two counts of criminal harassment involving Shannon Chancellor and Steven Simmons.
On Wednesday, Dec. 12 in BC Supreme Court in Salmon Arm, Mr. Justice Dev Dley dismissed those charges. In addition, Chancellor pleaded guilty to an offence of contravention of storage regulations for firearms and was fined $1,000 as well as given a discretionary one-year firearms prohibition.
Bill Hilderman served as Crown counsel while lawyers for the defence were Fred Kaatz and Kevin Walker.
The trial took place over four days. During the first two, witnesses for the Crown testified: Shannon Chancellor, estranged spouse of Keith Chancellor; Steven Simmons, current spouse of Shannon; Todd Grayston, former friend of Keith and fellow real estate agent; and Tammy Chouinard, real estate agent. Chouinard’s evidence was presented in a voir dire – a trial within a trial – to determine whether it was admissible, and Judge Dley ruled it was not.
Following the Crown’s case, Kaatz told the court he would not be calling any evidence, and was making an ‘insufficient evidence’ motion regarding the Crown’s case.
Hilderman then reviewed the testimony of the Crown’s witnesses, concluding that “the evidence is overwhelming in the first two counts – both complainants were harassed…”
Defence lawyer Walker argued the court should not consider any events Shannon testified to that were “pre-charge,” meaning before Sept. 4, 2009. Kaatz continued with the defence, questioning the validity of testimony of all three Crown witnesses and the evidence concerning harassment.
In delivering his ruling of not guilty, Justice Dley agreed with the position of the defence.
He spoke first regarding the charge of counselling Grayston to commit an assault, saying he did not find Grayston’s evidence reliable. He said if Keith had arranged for Grayston to harm Simmons, why hadn’t he inquired why the job had not been completed.
Dley also noted Grayston had told Simmons he had nothing to worry about.
“I infer from that advice that it was confirmation that Mr. Chancellor had not counselled Mr. Grayston to do such an offence.”
Regarding the criminal harassment charge involving Shannon Chancellor, Dley referred to her testimony about events prior to the charge dates of Sept. 4, 2009 to Jan. 4, 2011.
“None of the pre-charge conduct is to be condoned; nonetheless I’ve concluded the events as described were to paint Mr. Chancellor in the bleakest light,” the judge remarked.
He said some of her testimony was exaggerated, and noted that family matters are currently being litigated.
“Criminal courts are not to be used as an instrument to leverage those proceedings… Based on that, I can’t conclude that Ms. Chancellor had reasonable fear for her safety.”
He also referred to a card Keith sent with a child to Shannon’s home during Christmas 2010 to be given to Simmons. Its contents included a wedding photo of Keith and Shannon with a red mark under her eye, which she interpreted as a target – an eye for an eye.
Kaatz had said there is no evidence Keith put it there or saw it there.
Justice Dley said there is no question the history between the Chancellors was “filled with rancour and friction. It was a two-way street. They argued with each other.”
Regarding the criminal harassment charge involving Simmons, Dley said although Simmons was told by Grayston on Dec. 14, 2010 that Keith had asked Grayston to harm him, he waited until the following day to tell police. He also asked why Simmons, if he feared for his life, went to Keith’s residence to deliver a note from Shannon to let him know she was pregnant. Dley described his testimony of being in constant fear as not believable.
“He was dramatic and despite his attempts to display himself as a calm and understanding person, his temper frequently flared.”
Concluded the judge: “Mr. Chancellor did not harass Mr. Simmons, nor did Mr. Simmons fear for his safety.”