Delay in kidnapping case

A no-show from a lawyer caused yet another delay in a kidnapping case relating to an incident in May.

A lawyer’s failure to appear in court by telephone has once again delayed an already belaboured kidnapping case stemming from an incident in May.

The four accused, John Szanto, Kerry Ellis, Albert Fontaine and Carey Anderson, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and unlawful confinement or imprisonment relating to a 37-year-old Penticton man who RCMP reported was kidnapped and seriously assaulted in the early morning hours of May 21.

“I haven’t even made a formal election yet,” said Jeremy Jensen, counsel for Anderson, who was released on bail Nov. 19 while the others charged remain in custody, at a hearing in Penticton Provincial Court Nov. 23. “I’m wondering if we’re getting ahead of ourselves worrying about a trial date.”

Jensen indicated that his instructions were to elect to have a trial in Supreme Court, though no elections were made as Szanto’s lawyer, Juan O’Quinn, failed to appear via telephone at the hearing. If Anderson were to elect for a trial in Supreme Court the three other co-accused would be tried at that level as well.

“I need counsel to contact Mr. O’Quinn and tell him that the next court date there will be directions for whatever next step is going to be taken, whether it is a preliminary inquiry, whatever, it’s going to happen, and I expect his attendance,” said Judge Meg Shaw.

“I’m going to put this over to another date, but I’m going to make it very clear that whatever step is going to be taken next is going to be directed on the next appearance,” Shaw said.

Shaw warned O’Quinn that “you can’t just arbitrarily not show up on court dates.”

The counsels for the co-accused have previously aired their frustrations over delays in the case. Penticton lawyer Norman Yates is representing Fontaine and James Pennington is representing Ellis.

“It’s been a series of false starts by Mr. Pennington and I to try and get this matter to a pre-trial conference. This is probably our third or fourth pre-trial conference,” Yates said.

This makes the 11th appearance in court without moving forward for Fontaine.

“This matter desperately needs to be set for trial,” Yates said. “But it makes absolutely no sense to proceed without Mr. O’Quinn present.”

Vernon lawyer Juan O’Quinn was added on as Szanto’s counsel after Szanto dropped Penticton lawyer Paul Varga in October.

Szanto, 33, was sentenced to three years in jail in September for an unrelated assault with a  weapon in March.

“This (date) needs to be set as quickly as possible,” Shaw said.

“You’re speaking to the converted,” Yates said.

The matter was sent to the judicial case manager on Nov. 25 to schedule the next appearance.


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