By Trevor Busch
Taber town councillor and a former member of the Taber Municipal Police Commission, Rickie Rudy Popadynetz, pled guilty to assault and two counts of breach of conditions in Taber provincial court on Feb. 3.
Judge E.W. Peterson discharged Popadynetz conditionally with the caveat that he successfully complete one year of probation. A conditional discharge is a sentence passed by a court whereby the defendant is not punished, provided they comply with certain conditions.
The two-term town councillor was represented in court by Dustin Patzer as agent for his attorney, Doug Carle. Popadynetz, 40, had originally been scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 5 on a charge of assault with a weapon, but changed his plea to guilty to the less serious offence of common assault through agreement with the Crown.
Crown prosecutor Michael Fox summarized the facts of separate incidents for the court.
On Nov. 2, 2014 the accused and his spouse had become engaged in a verbal argument inside the couple’s home. During the course of this altercation, Popadynetz became enraged and flung a glass plate and its edible contents in the direction of the female victim, impacting her chest before shattering, which caused a laceration to the victim’s leg. The accused was charged with the offence.
Then on the early morning of Dec. 6, 2014, according to Fox, officers of the Taber Police Service responded to a 9-1-1 call from the female complainant at the same residence, reporting a knock on the door and witnessing the accused on her doorstep. Investigation determined Popadynetz to have been present at the residence in breach of a court order against contacting the female complainant or attending at her residence. The accused was charged with the offence.
In summation, Crown prosecutor Michael Fox suggested tension in the couple’s relationship had been escalating prior to Nov. 2, 2014.
“It would appear that this assault was something that had been brewing for some time,” said Fox.
Displaying significant emotion when afforded a chance to address the court, the accused apologized for his actions.
“It’s been a really hard experience. I truly love my wife, and I’m really sorry for everything she’s gone through,” said Popadynetz.
During sentencing, a victim impact statement was read to the court by the female complainant, in which she detailed the deterioration of the couple’s relationship and alleged previous ill treatment on the part of the accused. Upon review of this statement, Judge Peterson made clear that unsubstantiated references to any prior abusive behaviour on the part of the accused was to be regarded as inadmissable for the purposes of sentencing.
Offered as a mitigating factor, Popadynetz’s attorney Dustin Patzer noted that following charges being laid, the accused had suffered from a vision-related condition attributed to stress and other factors, while commenting on the nature of the assault itself.
“This is at the very low end of what would constitute an assault,” said Patzer.
As a condition of the accused’s probation, Judge Peterson ordered Popadynetz to attend for assessment, treatment and councelling for anger management and domestic violence. In addition, the accused will be prohibited from contact with the female complainant except through their respective legal representatives.
Judge Peterson also ordered Popadynetz to surrender a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Data Bank. A $300 victim-fine surcharge was also issued. In sentencing, Judge Peterson admonished Popadynetz for his behaviour during the incident in question.
“It’s never appropriate for violent behaviour to occur in the context of a relationship.”
A former member of the Taber Municipal Police Commission, Popadynetz has since stepped down from the position, citing other municipal obligations. Coun. Jack Brewin has been appointed as town council’s replacement.
In a statement made in November 2014, Town of Taber CAO Greg Birch indicated the criminal charge against Coun. Popadynetz was a “private matter” which would be dealt with as such by the provincial court system, despite the accused’s current position as a municipally-elected official.
“The official statement that council has given is this is a private matter, and is going before the court system as any private matter would. The Municipal Government Act covers his role and responsibilities, and certainly this wouldn’t disqualify him from council.”
Popadynetz declined to make a personal statement regarding his plea and sentence.