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

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Popular event/party band March Hare will appear in an online streamed performance Friday (June 18) featuring their salute to music of the `60s and `70s as part of BEC Entertainment’s Grand Summer Virtual Concert series. (Contributed photo)
White Rock-based BEC Entertainment continues Friday-night virtual concerts

March Hare and California Surf Incorporated featured

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read