“Your decision could have been of danger to the health and safety of those in the community,”
A jailed pastor who preached to gatherings that exceeded public health regulations in Parkland County will be allowed to leave the Edmonton Remand Centre after pleading guilty to breaching a court undertaking.
Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Parkland County appeared virtually in Stony Plain Provincial Court from the remand centre dressed in an orange and black jumpsuit to submit his plea Monday morning. His defence team submitted a joint submission with crown prosecutor Peter Mckenzie of a $100 fee for breaching a court undertaking to follow public health regulations.
Provincial Judge Jeffrey Champion did not accept that submission saying it would not be viewed by a reasonable and informed person as a fit sentence and that it was not a punishment in the public interest. He instead imposed a $1,500 fee against Coates and credited him with time served.
The pastor has been in custody since Feb. 16.
“Your decision could have been of danger to the health and safety of those in the community,” said Champion, who said the GraceLife gatherings could be defined as super spreader events.
Before announcing the fee, Champion said he was concerned with the message that accepting the joint submission would have on others looking to disobey public health orders. He also noted that Coates could have left custody prior to Monday if he agreed to follow court orders.
Champion said Coates’ services were a ‘blatant violation’ of public health orders that were in place.
Several other charges against Coates were withdrawn, meaning he will be able to leave custody Monday. He plans to challenge one further count against him in May that relates to breaching public health orders.
Prior to the sentencing, Coates said he was not making a statement by remaining in custody despite having the option to be in the community if he agreed to follow court orders. He said his obedience to Jesus Christ was putting him at odds with the law.
More to come…