A Chilliwack man who threatened Muslims in YouTube videos while holding weapons and dressed in military gear was convicted of uttering threats and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose in provincial court on Tuesday.
But because Seth Tait spent 94 days in pre-trial custody, and was given one-and-a-half times credit equaling 141 days, he was sentenced to time served and released that same day.
Tait is also banned from being within one block of a mosque anywhere in British Columbia.
Tait’s trial wrapped up on July 18 with a decision by Judge Gary Cohen who rejected Tait’s freedom of speech argument for the threats and his self-defence argument for the large hunting knife he was caught with when arrested.
“In these videos he is clearly seen threatening Muslims with death or bodily harm,” Cohen said, adding that Tait’s testimony on the witness stand was not at all credible.
“There is literally little weight I can put on anything he said… I counted 14 times that his testimony contradicted himself or what he was obviously saying in the videos.”
The trial for Tait, 28, started May 18 and 19 in connection with his “Soldier of Christ” videos posted on YouTube. Near the end of the May court appearances, Cohen said that after watching the videos he wanted a psychological evaluation. That psychological report came back on July 18 and it was determined that Tait “does not suffer from any mental disorder that absolves him from criminal responsibility.”
In some of his videos Tait made what Crown argued, and the judge agreed, are threats to Muslims. In most of the videos played in court he speaks into the camera dressed in military garb. In some he is seen brandishing handguns (that he says are BB guns), a shotgun, various knives, machetes and other survival gear.
In the muffled audio, Tait can be heard preaching verses from the Bible and talking about all manner of conspiracy theories.
“There are Muslims that are here that rape little babies to death in gangs and force mothers to watch,” he says in one.
Tait also claimed that every mosque in Canada is a terrorist training ground. He holds a machete in one video that he says is good for cutting up bodies, and that he wanted to get some pork bullets “to shoot up Muslim asses.”
The videos, which started in the fall and went into February, got the attention of the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) and he was arrested soon after.
Tait’s lawyer Bobby Movassaghi argued firstly that he was not threatening Muslim people in general but specifically Muslim terrorists. Tait’s only mistake in the videos is that he frequently said “Muslims” when clearly, so went the argument, he meant “Muslim terrorists.” Movassaghi argued the videos needed to be seen in their totality to understand his client’s point.
“He is saying if Muslim terrorists attack, he will respond,” Movassaghi said.
Cohen rejected that argument pointing to various lines in transcripts from the videos where Tait incites others to rise up to fight, and where he claims he will act pre-emptively.
“I’m not going to sit around until the enemy is breaking down my door,” Tait said in one video.
Movassaghi also argued that while the psychological report came back clean, the judge’s concern in ordering it at all was enough to acquit.
“The fact that you made the order makes for doubt, reasonable doubt,” Movassaghi said.
“It gave me concern,” Cohen responded. “We checked the concern and the concerns have been alleviated.”
There was also a long and nuanced argument about the issue of carrying a weapon for self-defence regarding the possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose charge. Tait himself said he carried the knife he was caught with for self-defence on the streets of Chilliwack.
But Cohen still convicted him of this since, according to a split Supreme Court of Canada decision, carrying a weapon for self-defence if there is not an imminent and specific threat meets the test to convict for possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
He added that even if this was wrong, the videos holding weapons while threatening to kill Muslims met the same test for conviction.
Tait was also convicted of a breach on Tuesday. He had been out on bail after the May court appearances but was re-arrested on June 1 because he had been posting on his Facebook page in violation of his conditions.
He had another bail hearing on June 7, but Judge Richard Browning denied bail and remanded Tait until the completion of his trial.
Immediately after the convictions in court on Tuesday, Crown and defence agreed to proceed to sentencing, both essentially agreeing the four months and 21 days he had credit for was enough time in custody.
Cohen also handed Tait two years probation with extensive conditions, including that he not go within one block of a mosque in B.C. He is also forbidden from attending within one block of The Progress office due to his harassing visits on more than one occasion.
As for the internet, Cohen declined to give a blanket ban but forbid Tait from posting on any social media sites or in chatrooms. He didn’t go so far as to ban all internet access allowing him to use messaging systems to contact friends or family.
Soon after release, however, Tait was posting on his Facebook page in violation of his probation. INSET was made aware of the posts Wednesday morning, Chilliwack RCMP investigated but a breach charge was not approved by Crown.