B.C. church pastor found guilty of accessing ‘substantial’ amounts of child pornography

No reasonable doubt raised by John Vermeer’s claim that pornography found on his computer wasn’t his

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was found guilty of accessing and possessing child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court on April 30, 2021. (File)
Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer’s child pornography trial ended last week with a decision set for April 14.)

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was found guilty of accessing and possessing child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court on April 30, 2021. (File) Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer’s child pornography trial ended last week with a decision set for April 14.)

The former executive pastor of Main Street Church in Chilliwack has been found guilty accessing and possession of child pornography.

Sitting in the front row of courtroom 204 at the Chilliwack Law Courts, John (Johannes) Vermeer elicited no reaction as Judge Andrea Ormiston read the guilty verdict on Friday (April 30).

“I find the Crown establishes evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Vermeer searched for, downloaded and sometimes opened the child porn,” Ormiston said.

“The volume of child porn Mr. Vermeer collected is substantial and longstanding.”

Long and highly technical trial focused on child pornography images found on two computers used by Vermeer at the church. He was charged and convicted on all four counts he faced: two each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography for dates in 2015 and 2010.

There was no dispute that the dozens of images of child porn were found on Vermeer’s laptop and his office desktop computer, the issue in the circumstantial case was whether there was a reasonable doubt as to how the images got on his computers.

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor child porn trial faces multi-month delay

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor child porn trial delayed yet again

As a computer expert himself, the 61-year-old Vermeer’s defence amounted to various speculative suggestions that the porn could have been put on the computers remotely by a hacker, maybe a virus or malware, or maybe someone else at the church used his computer.

Judge Andrea Ormiston said Vermeer’s testimony over the course of the trial was internally and externally inconsistent about his computer use and how the child porn got on his computers at the church.

“The impact of his inconsistencies are damaging to his credibility as a witness,” Ormiston said.

“I do not believe Mr. Vermeer.”

The trial began on July 22, 2019 but was delayed a number of times from the start, in part due to disclosure of computer logs and a missing external hard drive.

At the start of the trial, Crown counsel Teresa Mitchell-Banks explained that the IT firm Empyrion used by the church found 81 files with explicit names typical of child pornography. Evidence of more images and videos were later found, some on a laptop computer previously used by Vermeer.

Of the 75 computers eventually scanned in the church, child porn was only found on Vermeer’s two computers.

Vermeer testified in his own defence that he was the one who called police when Empyrion told him about the child porn. But as Judge Ormiston pointed out, he did not do this alone but did so at the urging of senior pastor Shawn Vandop, and it was done while Vandop was present.

A hard drive was missing from his computer, and the court heard evidence that many of the images had been deleted but traces remained in the unallocated space on the computer.

Back in 2018 when charges were laid, Vandop said he informed the congregation at the downtown church and said the news was met with “shock.”

“It’s not something that we want to hear or want to deal with but we live in a broken and messy world with a lot of pain,” he said, adding that right from the beginning of the investigation, church staff were co-operative.

Indeed, while Judge Ormiston found Vermeer’s testimony to be conflicting, unreliable and incredible, the judge found Vandop to be consistent and truthful as a witness.

Vermeer had served as executive pastor – an administrative role – for the church since 2009 until the charges were laid. He and his wife Anita have been married for 39 years and have two grown daughters.

Vermeer’s lawyer Michael Klein discussed timing for a sentencing hearing with Crown and it was determined they would need two days.

The matter was put over to May 11 to establish a day for that sentencing, but it was not discussed whether or not Crown would be seeking jail time.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Court

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Public opposition to a planned road was expressed on posters on the hiking trails above the Nelson cemetery. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company abandons road construction planned near Nelson hiking trails

RDCK, public, and transportation ministry opposed the road

A concept of the new Kaslo Bridge, which is expected to be complete by November. Illustration: Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Kaslo Bridge to be replaced

Construction on the $6.19-million project begins this month

Stuart Ashley Jones, 56, was at Grand Forks provincial court for sentencing on May 5, 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man shot by police during peak freshet sentenced to house arrest

Stuart Ashley Jones was shot by a Grand Forks Mountie after ramming two police cruisers in May 2018

The provincial government is funding upgrades to campgrounds in the Slocan Valley. File photo
Slocan Valley campgrounds to receive upgrades

New Denver, Slocan and Silverton have been granted $300,000

COVID-19 cases in B.C. for the week of April 25 to May 1. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Nelson surpasses 100 COVID-19 cases in 2021

The West Kootenays meanwhile saw numbers drop at the end of April

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread continues with 694 new cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Most Read