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Court hears voicemails in harassment case

A Nelson courtroom listened to messages Monday that Donovan Carter left on MLA Michelle Mungall’s office voicemail a year ago.
Donovan Carter appeared in court Monday to contest a peace bond application. MLA Michelle Mungall has complained of harrassment.

A Nelson courtroom listened to messages Monday that Donovan Carter left on Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall’s office voicemail a year ago, in which he called her a “brain-dead politician,” told her “you say dumbass things” and suggested she “Take Carole James’ yellow scarf and stuff it in your month.”

Court also watched a video Mungall posted on YouTube when seeking the NDP nomination that Carter, a former Nelson resident, took issue with.

The hearing was part of the Crown’s application for a peace bond against Carter, which he is contesting.

Mungall testified she worried Carter might hurt her, and continues to be afraid of him. She faced cross-examination by former MLA Blair Suffredine, who is representing Carter.

Mungall told Provincial Court Judge Ron Webb that constituency assistant Della McLeod brought several voicemails to her attention left in November 2010.

She testified that in the first, which has since been deleted, Carter said: “You cannot reason with politicians. You can only bloody them.”

Suffredine argued this referred to politics being a bloodsport, and Mungall was trying to silence a political critic, but she denied this.

In the second voicemail, played for the court, Carter said “You don’t have the backbone to return calls,” and complained about statements Mungall made to a local online newspaper about Crown land in relation to the Nelson Landing development. He called her a “brain-dead politician,” accused her of saying “dumbass things,” and suggested she “take Carole James’ yellow scarf and stuff it in your mouth so you can’t say anything else to damage yourself.”

The third voicemail referred to the CUPE lockout that occurred while Mungall sat on Nelson city council, and said she was too busy “flaunting your perky cleavage” to attend a particular meeting.

Mungall also testified about a fourth voicemail left in February, but not played in court, in which Carter allegedly began “Hello Miss Kitty, this is Senator Cougar.”

Mungall said she has not spoken to Carter since she was elected in 2009, although she met him prior to that at former MLA Corky Evans’ office and they had an amicable conversation. However, she said Evans’ assistant Sandy Korman told her Carter subsequently left them an “insulting” voicemail about Mungall.

Following the voicemails last November, Mungall and McLeod filed a police complaint. However, Mungall said she didn’t see Carter again until February 11 of this year, at a federal trade forum at Nelson’s United Church.

She said Carter stood in front of her, facing the audience with a sign she couldn’t see, which she later learned read “Michelle, less boob tube, more Crown land.”

She testified that a forum organizer asked him to leave and he “stormed out.”

At that point, Mungall said, she was not fearful, but she grew increasingly concerned after hearing from one of MP Alex Atamanenko’s assistants that they received “aggressive, threatening calls” about Mungall, with multiple references to her breasts.

She asked to be escorted to her car that evening, and called police when she got home. “Clearly his behaviour had escalated. I was afraid he was going to cause me harm,” she said.

Carter was arrested and released on conditions not to come near Mungall.

As a result, she said she began changing her routines, including arriving at work at different times and taking different routes. She also installed a deadbolt at her home and started locking her doors — which she didn’t previously do. She further discussed precautions with security staff at the BC Legislature.

Since the trade forum, Mungall said she has only seen Carter once, at a community bike ride in Nelson. She was nervous and didn’t want to approach him, and asked others to stay with her, she testified.

When Carter became aware of her presence, he “made a loud announcement that he had to leave,” got on his bike and left. She said she felt embarrassed that she had to explain to people what just happened.

She added she is “definitely still fearful [Carter] will take his complaints and his approach to the next level and seek to harm me. I don’t want to find out that will be the case.”

Under cross-examination, Suffredine asked Mungall why she has tackled the Jumbo Glacier Resort issue, even though it’s outside her riding’s boundaries. She replied many constituents had approached her about it, as it would affect backcountry access, and potentially harm ski-tour operators in her riding.

Suffredine then asked her about a rap routine she recorded at a nomination fundraiser and posted to YouTube, in which he claimed she “shook” her chest.

“If anything I was only dancing,” Mungall replied.

Suffredine also asked her to explain what she meant when she said “Vote for the chick with the most” on the video, which the court viewed.

Mungall replied that she was trying to get young people involved in democracy, and was referring to having the most experience.

“You can do a dance and be ambiguous, but if Carter phones up and says ambiguous things about ‘perky cleavage’ he means evil?” Suffredine asked.

The testimony was marked by several testy exchanges between the pair, who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

“In politics, we sometimes stretch things, yes?” Suffredine asked.

“You would probably know that better than me,” Mungall countered.

Suffredine asked her about a series of video letters she sent to the housing minister last year urging funding be granted to the Anderson Street housing project, wondering whether she had otherwise met or written the minister on the subject.

Mungall replied that the videos were a “legitimate way to connect with and contact” him and that she also quizzed him about it during the budget estimate process.

Suffredine suggested the video trilogy was used for political advantage, a charge Mungall denied. She said the videos were an advocacy tactic, to ensure a favourable decision on the project.

“This is really about the show,” Suffredine said.

“No, it enhanced the advocacy,” Mungall replied.

At one point, the judge interjected: “If you two want to have a political discussion, perhaps you should do it sometime I’m not here.”

Suffredine challenged Mungall’s memory of the February 11 meeting, suggesting Carter did not storm out, but left normally.

They also engaged in a debate over the meaning of the term “boob tube,” which Suffredine argued referred to Mungall’s videos and did not have a suggestive connotation.

However, Mungall said she found its use “disconcerting” given the previous phone messages. “He seemed fixated with body parts I have because I’m a woman.”

They also debated Carter’s use of Senator Cougar and Miss Kitty in his voicemails. Suffredine suggested Cougar was Carter’s longtime nickname, and Kitty referred to the DJ troupe, Meow Mix, that appeared on Mungall’s YouTube video.

Mungall said she didn’t know what Carter meant, but felt he was using it “in an abusive context” — senator and cougar being “terms of power and dominance” and kitty a “term of subservience.”

The judge said he’d never heard kitty used that way. Mungall said she didn’t have any specific pop culture examples.

“You don’t have anything specific that he’s going to harm you?” Suffredine asked.

“I believe he has the capability to harm me,” Mungall replied. “He escalated behaviour despite police telling him his behavior is inappropriate.”

Mungall said Carter bringing the sign to the trade forum was an example of the escalation. She said taken alone, it would be bizarre behaviour, but in a broader context, it was tantamount to abuse, harassment, and threats.

Other people have been dissatisfied with her, she said, but nobody else has left her feeling afraid.

McLeod, Mungall’s assistant, testified that prior to the November voicemails, she knew Carter to be “quiet, soft-spoken, and polite,” but his initial message was “so unsettling, full of anger, and toxic,” her first instinct was to delete it.

She said the message followed a civil conversation they had concerning Crown land.

She subsequently spoke with BC Legislature security staff and provided a statement to police. Initially, however, she only gave Mungall the essence of the calls, to warn her without unduly alarming her.

McLeod also noted she was in the audience the night of the trade forum and was surprised by Carter’s appearance — a trenchcoat and fedora — and was concerned it was intended as a disguise.

She said she found Carter’s voicemails “intimidating” and believed they contained “veiled threats.” She said his “hostility and tone” bothered her more than his words.

She agreed, however, that Carter always identified himself and only called during off-hours.

“I believe Mr. Carter is unpredictable, unstable, and I am afraid of him,” McLeod said. In reference to his final call, she said: “What would a cougar do with a kitty? Kill it. That frightens me.”

The hearing adjourned until Wednesday afternoon. Depending on the availability of court time, the matter may continue then or be put over to another date.

The Crown intends to call three more witnesses, while Carter may testify in his own defense. Carter, who now lives in Comox, remains free on conditions.