A long drawn out court hearing nearly ended in a return to custody for Curtis Sagmoen, whose lawyer appeared in Vernon court Thursday afternoon just in time to have a warrant for the high-profile North Okanagan man’s arrest rescinded.
At an arraignment hearing April 8, Sagmoen was expected to enter a plea for an assault charge involving a peace officer stemming from an Oct. 29, 2020, incident near Falkland.
When Sagmoen’s lawyer failed to appear in court on his behalf at 10 a.m., a warrant was put out for his arrest.
However, his lawyer appeared later in the afternoon to rescind the warrant, and Sagmoen’s hearing has been rescheduled for April 22, according to Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service.
That will stretch the matter to 121 days since it was originally scheduled to take place.
No explanation has been provided for the morning absence.
Now, the faithful contingent of protesters who returned to the courthouse lawn Thursday morning — joined by two prominent Indigenous rights activists — are frustrated by what they view to be a laggard court process.
Gladys Radek travelled from afar to join the gathering on the courthouse lawn.
She is among the activists who helped draw initial attention to the Highway of Tears, a corridor from Prince George to Prince Rupert that has been a locus of missing and murdered women and girls for more than 50 years.
From her car — plastered with Missing and Murdered posters and parked across from the Vernon courthouse — Radek spoke to B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth shortly after news broke of the warrant for Sagmoen’s arrest Thursday morning, a ministry spokesperson confirmed to the Morning Star.
The telephone meeting was to discuss “subjects related to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Action Plan,” the spokesperson said.
“We are committed to developing a path forward to end violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people that will be directly informed by survivors, family members and communities,” the ministry said.
Before the hearing, Radek told the Morning Star she was here to support the families, as she’s done in places across the country.
Sagmoen has a history of assault against women working in the sex industry.
He was found guilty for disguising himself and threatening a sex trade worker with a shotgun Dec. 20, 2019, but was given time served and 36 months probation.
Two months later, he was found guilty for hitting a different woman in the industry with an ATV so hard her shoes flew off in an Aug. 10, 2017, incident.
He was sentenced to five months jail time on June 19, 2020, but was again credited with time served and walked free with 36 months of probation.
His probation order bans him from drug and alcohol use, accessing websites advertising escort or dating services, having more than one cellphone number and leaving the province without permission from his bail supervisor.
Sagmoen is ordered to reside at his family property on Salmon River Road as per his probation and has a 10-year weapons ban.
The 10-hectare family farm became the subject of an extensive police search Oct. 19, 2017, and the remains of missing 18-year-old Traci Genereaux were found.
Although her death was deemed suspicious, no charges have been laid.
At the time five women – Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz, Genereaux and Nicole Bell – were missing from the North Okanagan area.
Also joining the protesters Thursday was Chief Judy Wilson, an executive member of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), who has paid many visits to the Vernon courthouse in support of family members of lost girls.
“We really need to look at what the issues are, why it’s being delayed,” Wilson said Thursday. “And why the legalities of this case are not coming together. There needs to be more accountability to all on that.”
“We really need to have this dealt with in a way that brings closure for these families. There’s no closure when there’s no accountability.”
While COVID-19 has inhibited protesters from coming out in full force, Wilson said many are staying active online and on social media.
Like Wilson and Radek, they’re there to support the families that are still looking for closure.
“The families are devastated. I can’t imagine not knowing where my daughter or my sister or aunt or mother was, all these years,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t imagine the pain.”
– with Black Press files