Jeremy Undershute, who had been accused of assault for allegedly spitting on a Nelson woman during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been found not guilty.
Judge Robert Brown acquitted Undershute in Castlegar Provincial Court on Aug. 30, bringing an end to a years-long case that began in 2020 and carried through a long trial this year.
Undershute was originally charged following an argument at Nelson’s Empire Coffee on Nov. 20, 2020, with a server over his opposition to the provincial mask mandate.
That led to a confrontation with Rhonda Comeau, an employee of The Adventure Hotel that owns Empire Coffee.
Comeau said she told Undershute to leave, and he replied by raising his balaclava and spitting on her. Shortly after the same day, Comeau suffered the first of multiple heart attacks. However during the trial Crown counsel Keven Schecter never attempted to connect the spitting to the heart attacks.
The case against Undershute was undermined by two key considerations.
Comeau had testified she provided two surveillance videos of the incident to the Nelson Police Department, but only one had been viewed at that point by Schecter and defence lawyer Don White.
It later turned out one video had been accidentally over-written, and White criticized the police for being negligent with evidence in their investigation.
The other point in Undershute’s favour was the testimony of Shauna Fidler, who was a customer in Empire Coffee during the incident. She said she witnessed Undershute spit on the floor in front of Comeau, but not on her.
Schecter argued that didn’t matter, and that spitting at a person was still defined by the criminal code as an assault.
The argument did not sway Brown, who ruled Undershute not guilty after a four-day trial that had dates in February, May, June and August.
With files from reporter Bill Metcalfe.