VANCOUVER — A man accused of trying to emotionally ruin the life of his ex-wife using online posts showed little emotion as a B.C. Supreme Court jury declared him guilty of criminal harassment on Wednesday.
The court heard Patrick Fox’s tactics included threatening emails, blog postings and a website aimed at Desiree Capuano.
Crown attorney Mark Myhre told the trial Fox’s hatred for Capuano was so intense he used their teenage son as a pawn, reading to the jury a number of emails sent in which Fox declared that his goal was to “destroy” Capuano’s life.
Myhre outlined 10 ways in which Fox’s actions constituted criminal harassment of Capuano, saying Fox falsely maligned her as a white supremacist, a child abuser and a drug user in the blog that was purportedly written by Capuano.
Capuano, who is American and lives in Arizona, was not in court to hear the verdict but said in a phone interview she and her family were relieved by the jury’s decision.
“I took my first deep breath in years,” she said. “I feel lighter, I feel exhausted, just a letdown of all the stress and all the burden and all the sleepless nights and all the fear.”
She said this isn’t quite the end of the ordeal — with sentencing to be determined and the harassing website still online plaguing her — but she can now sleep in peace.
A sentencing hearing has not been set and the Crown asked the court to first conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Fox.
Myhre told the judge after the verdict that information Fox posted on the harassing website can be interpreted as “hyperbole” but also “delusional” and it appears Fox believes the allegations he has written, although they are not factual.
He said a psychiatric evaluation would help inform “how to keep Ms. Capuano harassment-free going forward to the extent possible with court orders and treatment if necessary.”
A psychiatric evaluation through a pre-sentencing report could take six to eight weeks to complete.
Defence counsel Tony Lagemaat objected, saying Fox was against delaying sentencing for that amount of time.
Justice Heather Holmes instructed the Crown to find an alternate way for the courts to order the evaluation that would not take as long, which Fox said he would consent to. A decision on how to proceed will be made Thursday.
The jury, which began its deliberations on Tuesday, also found Fox guilty of a firearms offence.
The court heard four handguns were found inside a computer in a box that Fox had shipped to a California address from Burnaby, B.C.
Fox told the court the firearms seized at his friend’s house in Los Angeles may have merely been placed in an empty box that was put in a closet and that he would not have intentionally caused problems for his friend.
In February 2016, Capuano went to the media about the harassment she faced after the Crown decided not to lay charges. Shortly after, the provincial justice minister at the time said the Crown’s decision to approve charges could be reviewed if police provided additional evidence.
Fox was charged four months later.
Reflecting on her ordeal following the verdict, Capuano said she thinks the justice system “is behind the times.”
She said having repeatedly heard “no” from police and other institutions when searching for help “just shows the holes that we have in our justice system for this kind of abuse.”
Jurors heard the pair was embroiled in a custody battle over their son and the boy’s demeanour changed after returning to Arizona from a visit with his father. The court heard the boy spent much of his time in his bedroom and disengaged from his family.
His defence lawyer told the jury in closing arguments that the two were engaged in a nasty game in which they taunted each other by email, adding that Capuano didn’t seem to fear Fox because she had initiated an email chain despite telling him to stop emailing her.
Lagemaat said Capuano provoked his client by calling him names and saying he had a “sick fixation” on her.
“She’s throwing out the insults as well as she’s taking,” Lagemaat said.
“You might not like the words Mr. Fox uses or that he’s posted them to a website. That alone is not an offence,” he told the jury.
Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press
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