Charges withdrawn against farmers

Charges have been withdrawn against two Sundre-area farmers that stemmed from a tractor and check stop incident that occurred near Didsbury, Alta., in late July.

Jeremia Leussink had been charged with resisting arrest and refusing to provide a breath sample. His brother, Dominic, had been charged with two counts of obstruction, with a third charge of causing a disturbance that was later changed to a charge of mischief.

The crown withdrew all charges on Sept. 24, said Tonii Roulston of Roulston Urquart Criminal Defence, who represented the Leussinks.

The charges against Jeremia, 19, were laid after sheriffs who were conducting a check stop on Highway 2A observed him driving a tractor and leaving the highway to instead traverse a ditch and enter a field. They deemed him to be deliberately avoiding the roadside check.

Five sheriffs removed him from the tractor, forced him to the ground and applied handcuffs in an operation captured on video and widely shared by social media. Many said they felt the sheriffs acted too aggressively during the incident.

Charges against Dominic, 21, stemmed from his attempts to reclaim the Fendt tractor, which had been detained by the sheriffs and damaged during attempts to start and to tow it.

Roulston said those charges resulted from “inconsistent information” provided to the family about whether or not they could reclaim the tractor to continue their farming operations.

The Leussink family raised more than $73,600 through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay legal fees for the two brothers.

Roulston said the criminal matter is now closed, although the charge against Jeremia of refusal to provide a breath sample results in loss of his learner’s licence for several months. Any attempts to change that status would have to be taken up with the province.

She also said the matter may proceed to civil court, where the family may seek remedy for injuries to Jeremia and recovery of tractor repair costs.

“I believe there’s going to be an outstanding matter with respect to… the interaction that the sheriffs had with Jeremia and the damage to this tractor. The concern is with respect to the legality of seizing that tractor because it is not a motor vehicle.”

The matter had at one time been scheduled for court in October but now the criminal matter is closed.

“I appreciate the crown prosecutor reviewing this file on a rather expedited basis,” said Roulston. “It was a very stressful. And it’s stressful not only for Jeremia and Dominic. It’s stressful for the whole family. … This was extremely disruptive.”

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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