A Barrie judge agreed today to release a Toronto man until he can get a trial on charges of assault and sexual assault.
Carl Obermeier, 58, who has a previous conviction for manslaughter, has been in the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) for the past 21 months waiting for his day in court.
In addition to a standard publication ban on the identity of the complainant relating to the sexual assault and assault charges which were laid in Oro-Medonte Township in July 2018, Justice Cary Boswell has imposed a publication ban on the details of the hearing and his reasons for releasing Obermeier.
Obermeier had a date for trial April 27, but it, like all other criminal and civil trials in Ontario, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Courthouses remain essentially closed, although bail hearings and guilty pleas are still being heard via teleconferencing.
While court dates are being put over 10 weeks in criminal cases, it remains unclear when trials will resume or when Obermeier will have his day in court.
Earlier this week, Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz declared that there will be no jury trials in Ontario Superior Courts until at least September.
During a teleconference on Wednesday, Obermeier’s lawyer, Alison Craig, made the pitch to have her client released from the Penetanguishene superjail and the judge released his reasons in writing on Friday morning.
Given the threat of the worldwide pandemic and increased infection rates in institutions, courts across the province are hearing applications for early release for those waiting for a trial or serving sentences in jails.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General is also using longer-term temporary absences to allow the early release of those inmates who are near the end of their sentence.
A ministry spokesman said inmates are carefully assessed to ensure they are a low risk to reoffend to protect public safety. The ministry has also given temporary absence passes to intermittent offenders, who would normally spend weekends in custody.
Since April 2, 25 low-risk inmates close to the end of their sentences have been released early from institutions across the province. Of those, eight inmates have been released from CNCC.
With a capacity of 1,180, the Penetanguishene jail’s population is down to 700, according to the province’s solicitor general’s office. On March 16, the day before the province declared a state of emergency as a result of the health crisis, there were 933 people housed at the CNCC.
Across Ontario, the population in provincial jails stood at 5,682 this week, down from 8,344.
Provincial officials have been unable to provide a breakdown of the reasons for the releases and how many of them have resulted from what are being called “COVID applications."
Obermeier has been in jail before. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in the 2006 stabbing of two men during an altercation following a night of drinking in Scarborough. Todd McConnell was killed in the attack.
He received a 10-year sentence for manslaughter and another six years, to be served concurrently, for aggravated assault. He received three years’ credit for the 18 months he spent in pre-sentence custody, reducing his sentence to 13 years.
In his reasons for sentencing at the time, the judge pointed out that Obermeier already had a “substantial criminal record,” which included sexual assault and administering a noxious substance as well as a previous sexual assault, armed robbery, and unlawful use of a firearm.