Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 restrictions released, will not have to pay $1,500 fine
EDMONTON -- The Edmonton-area pastor jailed for breaking COVID-19 restrictions was released Monday.
James Coates was jailed on Feb. 16 after he repeatedly hosted church services at GraceLife that exceeded Alberta's mandated 15 per cent capacity.
He was in custody for one month because he refused to agree to the conditions of his release after he was granted bail.
Coates was charged with two violations of the Public Health Act and failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking.
He pleaded guilty to a lesser count the last charge as part of a deal that saw one of the two Public Health Act charges dropped.
His three-day trial on the outstanding Public Health Act charge begins on May 3.
In a joint submission, the crown and defence asked for a $100 fine but the judge increased it to $1,500.
The judge reprimanded Coates for putting his congregation and the greater public at risk, adding: "He's serving a period of time because he wants to make a statement."
One of Coates' lawyers, Jay Cameron, told CTV News Edmonton the fine was paid by the pastor's time in custody.
"He has credit for 53 days because he has time and a half," the lawyer said. "Twelve of those days went to pay for that time so he isn’t actually paying any money. This is the judge making a statement with that amount."
CTV News asked the crown if Coates did not have to pay the fine. The crown confirmed that credit for time served will cover the fine amount.
The church has defied a closure order and has been cited for violating COVID-19 restrictions in connection to occupancy, physical distancing and masks.
The lawyer could not comment when asked if Coates would continue to give Sunday services.
With files from Bill Fortier