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Newspaper box vandal suspect reappears in court

Next appearance Jan 19

Thomas Strain, the man accused of vandalizing Capital Xtra newspaper boxes, made a brief court appearance Dec 22.

Over a four-month period last fall, several Capital Xtra newspaper boxes were repeatedly targeted with paint or had their doors screwed shut so they couldn’t be opened. While some had paint poured over them, others were defaced with swastikas, “HIV” or had their windows painted black. Adjacent newspaper boxes were untouched.

Strain first appeared Dec 8 and had his case adjourned to Dec 22, to give him sufficient time to find a lawyer. With four counts of mischief under $5,000 and one count of mischief over $5,000, Strain’s lawyer required more time to prepare. He had only received disclosure from the Crown that morning in the courtroom.

Strain sat by himself in the courtroom reading what appeared to be a Bible while waiting for his name to be called.

“I could live with being a pariah, being hated, whatever, being looked at as a criminal by everyone except God. God doesn’t regard me as a criminal, even if I’m in jail,” he told Capital Xtra outside the courtroom. “God will sustain me no matter how many people are against me.”

Investigated by Ottawa Police’s Hate Crimes Unit, the Crown is treating it as a hate crime because the vandal targeted a gay newspaper while leaving other newspapers alone. The media considers it a freedom of speech issue because the vandalism obstructed a newspaper’s ability to reach its audience.

“I can’t justify it. It was a crazy thing. It’s stupid and a normal person wouldn’t do it,” explained Strain. “I’m vulnerable to whatever, evil or whatever you want to call it. I’m not accountable. I wouldn’t be doing things like what I did if I was still going to church.”

Strain is scheduled to reappear Thu, Jan 19, at 8:30am in Courtroom 5 at the Ottawa courthouse (161 Elgin St). The courthouse is open to the public.