B.C. church pastor found guilty of accessing ‘substantial’ amounts of child pornography

No reasonable doubt raised by John Vermeer’s claim that pornography found on his computer wasn’t his

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was found guilty of accessing and possessing child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court on April 30, 2021. (File)
Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer’s child pornography trial ended last week with a decision set for April 14.)

Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer was found guilty of accessing and possessing child pornography in Chilliwack provincial court on April 30, 2021. (File) Former Main Street Church executive pastor John Vermeer’s child pornography trial ended last week with a decision set for April 14.)

The former executive pastor of Main Street Church in Chilliwack has been found guilty accessing and possession of child pornography.

Sitting in the front row of courtroom 204 at the Chilliwack Law Courts, John (Johannes) Vermeer elicited no reaction as Judge Andrea Ormiston read the guilty verdict on Friday (April 30).

“I find the Crown establishes evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Vermeer searched for, downloaded and sometimes opened the child porn,” Ormiston said.

“The volume of child porn Mr. Vermeer collected is substantial and longstanding.”

Long and highly technical trial focused on child pornography images found on two computers used by Vermeer at the church. He was charged and convicted on all four counts he faced: two each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography for dates in 2015 and 2010.

There was no dispute that the dozens of images of child porn were found on Vermeer’s laptop and his office desktop computer, the issue in the circumstantial case was whether there was a reasonable doubt as to how the images got on his computers.

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

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

As a computer expert himself, the 61-year-old Vermeer’s defence amounted to various speculative suggestions that the porn could have been put on the computers remotely by a hacker, maybe a virus or malware, or maybe someone else at the church used his computer.

Judge Andrea Ormiston said Vermeer’s testimony over the course of the trial was internally and externally inconsistent about his computer use and how the child porn got on his computers at the church.

“The impact of his inconsistencies are damaging to his credibility as a witness,” Ormiston said.

“I do not believe Mr. Vermeer.”

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.

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

Of the 75 computers eventually scanned in the church, child porn was only found on Vermeer’s two computers.

Vermeer testified in his own defence that he was the one who called police when Empyrion told him about the child porn. But as Judge Ormiston pointed out, he did not do this alone but did so at the urging of senior pastor Shawn Vandop, and it was done while Vandop was present.

A hard drive was missing from his computer, and the court heard evidence that many of the images had been deleted but traces remained in the unallocated space on the computer.

Back in 2018 when charges were laid, Vandop said he informed the congregation at the downtown church and said the news was met with “shock.”

“It’s not something that we want to hear or want to deal with but we live in a broken and messy world with a lot of pain,” he said, adding that right from the beginning of the investigation, church staff were co-operative.

Indeed, while Judge Ormiston found Vermeer’s testimony to be conflicting, unreliable and incredible, the judge found Vandop to be consistent and truthful as a witness.

Vermeer had served as executive pastor – an administrative role – for the church since 2009 until the charges were laid. He and his wife Anita have been married for 39 years and have two grown daughters.

Vermeer’s lawyer Michael Klein discussed timing for a sentencing hearing with Crown and it was determined they would need two days.

The matter was put over to May 11 to establish a day for that sentencing, but it was not discussed whether or not Crown would be seeking jail time.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Court

Just Posted

Gerry Thiessen, mayor of Vanderhoof shown talking to students on May 17. Thiessen and other members of council officially announced that the rainbow crosswalk will be a reality. They were ready to paint a few lines of of paint onto the crosswalk, but weather wasn’t suitable for it. District staff will be jumping onto the project as soon as the weather allows it. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
School District 91 holds first ‘Share the Love Day’

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia recognized

Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 498 British Columbians in the first three months of 2021, said the BC Coroners Service. (BCEHS photo)
Increase in overdose cases a concern: Fort St. James RCMP

Police issue public health announcement

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Most Read