2 min

Back to court

Goliath's trial resumes

Credit: Gareth Kirkby

Calgary’s only gay bathhouse heads back to court this week for round two of the alleged keepers’ case. The charges date back to December 2002, when police raided Goliath’s Sauna and charged everyone inside with either keeping or being found in a common bawdyhouse.

According to Canada’s Criminal Code, a legal bathhouse becomes an illegal “bawdyhouse” when either prostitution or indecent acts take place inside. In this case, police have repeatedly pointed to indecent acts-specifically gay sex in the common areas of the bathhouse-as their basis for prosecuting Goliath’s patrons, employees and owner.

And that’s a problem, say observers such as Bruce Freeman, an anthropology instructor and PhD candidate from the University of Calgary. “I don’t think sex between two men is indecent,” Freeman told Xtra West outside the courtroom last November.

Inside the courtroom, the accused keepers trial had just begun-only to get postponed for five months to give the Crown more time to sort out exactly what police knew prior to launching their investigation. Now the trial is set to resume Apr 1, presumably with all its information in order.

The trial will likely raise some important issues for the gay community.

For starters, the accused keepers’ lawyer, John Bascom, will likely renew his objection to police procedures in this case. Before the trial got postponed last November, Bascom asked the judge to quash the police’s evidence because, he says, the undercover officers invaded the gay patrons’ privacy to obtain it-and therefore violated their rights. (Police spent two months undercover in Goliath’s in the fall of 2002, collecting enough information to ask for a warrant. They were executing that warrant when they raided Goliath’s Dec 12, 2002. The defence wants the court to throw out everything stemming from that original undercover investigation.)

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives Canadians the right to be left alone unless police have a truly legitimate reason to investigate, Bascom told the court. Police had no such reason in this case, he continued. “I think their investigation was fairly thin.”

Police have maintained all along that they launched their initial undercover investigation after receiving two tips that indecent acts were occurring inside the bathhouse.

If the judge accepts Bascom’s argument that police violated the patrons’ privacy rights, he could throw out all or most of the evidence against the accused keepers-leaving the Crown without much of a case.

If, on the other hand, the judge rejects Bascom’s argument and upholds the police evidence, Bascom will likely argue that the police’s interpretation of gay bathhouse sex as indecent is flawed anyway. (And if there’s nothing indecent about gay bathhouse sex, then there’s nothing illegal about Goliath’s.)

Goliath’s owner, Darrell Zakreski, and his employees, Lonnie Nomeland, Peter Jackson and Gerald Rider, are each facing one count of keeping a common bawdyhouse in connection with this case. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison. Their trial is expected to last six days. (Another man, charged as a found-in, has a separate court date scheduled for later this year.)

* The accused keepers’ trial begins Apr 1 in Calgary’s provincial criminal courthouse, 323 6th Ave SE, at 9 am.