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Guilty plea in death threat case

Johnson faces psychological assessment

An Ottawa man pleaded guilty Apr 28 to uttering death threats in a letter to a gay telephone line. Albert Matthew Johnson, 24, is facing psychological assessment before sentencing.

It remains unclear why Johnson sent a letter in March, 2004 to the Gayline, with the message “Gays will die tonight” formed from cutout letters and including a photograph of an unknown man.

The man in the photo was later identified by police, who confirmed he had also received a letter. Police told media the man was an acquaintance of the letter sender.

Johnson was arrested following a month-long investigation.

Judge Jean-Marie Bordeleau ordered a pre-sentencing report and a psychological assessment of Johnson.

In an interview outside the courtroom, Crown attorney Janikke Heiberg said this will look into the offender’s level of maturity, character, general behaviour, remorse, if he has had problems or difficulties and what will help him rehabilitate.

“The sentence isn’t only about penalty,” says Heiberg. “A lot of it has to do with rehabilitation as well.”

Also outside the courtoom, Johnson’s lawyer Jason Gilbert said that he hopes the sentence will be something leaning on the therapeutic side.

Heiberg added that Johnson’s sentence will depend on what motivated his actions.

Gilbert hinted at a love triangle behind his client’s actions.

“There was a perception on Mr Johnson’s part that [the man who received the letter] was interested in his girlfriend.”

Heiberg said the man was close friends with Johnson’s girlfriend.

Det Will Hinterberger, the lead investigator on the case, could not tell Capital Xtra why the message was geared towards gays, or why the Gayline was brought into the matter.

Johnson was also originally charged with stealing pictures that he used in the letters. The charges have since been dropped.

Pink Triangle Services temporarily shut down the Gayline and the Kelly McGinnis Library on the night they received the threatening letter.

“I was shocked and concerned for volunteers,” Maura Volante, then-executive director of PTS, told Capital Xtra at the time.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Sentencing is Jul 26 at 9am in Courtroom 7, at the Criminal Court, 161 Elgin St.