Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer took the witness stand in his own defence on Oct. 6, 2020 in his trial for child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court. The trial ended Jan. 7, 2021. (File)

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer took the witness stand in his own defence on Oct. 6, 2020 in his trial for child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court. The trial ended Jan. 7, 2021. (File)

Chilliwack church pastor child porn trial wraps up

Judge’s decision in case of John Vermeer put over to another date

Chilliwack’s church pastor child porn trial has now ended with a verdict yet to come.

Lawyers for the Crown and for John (Johannes) Vermeer made final submissions in front of Judge Andrea Ormiston in provincial court on Thursday (Jan. 7).

The highly technical and drawn-out trial focused on child porn that was discovered on a computer at Main Street Church. Vermeer, who is the former executive pastor of the church, faced four counts: two each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography for dates in 2015 and 2010.

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor child porn trial faces multi-month delay

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor child porn trial delayed yet again

The trial began on July 22, 2019 but was delayed a number of times from the start, in part due to disclosure of computer logs and a missing external hard drive.

Defence lawyer Michael Klein has made submissions arguing that while child pornography was indeed found on the computer, there is reasonable doubt as to how it got there.

At the start of the trial, Crown counsel Teresa Mitchell-Banks explained that the IT firm Empyrion brought in found 81 files with names typical of child pornography. Evidence of more images and videos were later found, some on a laptop computer previously used by Vermeer.

Klein asked expert witnesses if a virus or hacker could remotely put child porn on the computer. Computer technician Lyle Kullman testified that no evidence of Trojan viruses or hacking was found on the church’s computers.

Klein pushed the experts on how possible it is to fully delete files from a computer, particularly if someone has administrative privileges. While unsophisticated computer users often don’t realize how difficult it is to delete a file and all of it’s traces from a computer or overwrite hard drives, it can be done.

On the last day of submissions, Klein reiterated this point, and the fact that Vermeer is a sophisticated computer user.

“If someone was savvy enough [they] can overwrite hard drives,” he said. “Mr. Vermeer is sophisticated enough. Why wouldn’t he do that?”

Given, also, that Empyrion had remote access and the ability to monitor usage on the church’s computers, Klein suggested that it would make no sense that Vermeer would use the computer to watch child porn.

“Why would you use a computer to download child pornography, one that you knew someone else can watch?”

Vermeer himself testified in October in his own defence, telling the judge that he was the one who called the RCMP when the child porn was discovered.

“I called the detachment,” he told Judge Ormiston, even though he said neither he nor lead pastor Shawn Vandop could see child pornography images on the computer.

“We couldn’t see any files or images. [The RCMP] said, ‘Until you discover something more concrete, we are not going to attend.’”

The trial ended on Jan. 7, 2021. A date for Judge Ormiston’s to hand down her decision had not been set by Jan. 11.

READ MORE: Chilliwack church pastor takes the witness stand in child porn trial


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