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Deterrent sentence possible, expert says, after trio convicted in connection to Coutts border blockade

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Three men who helped lead and co-ordinate the 2022 border blockade at Coutts, Alta., have been found guilty of public mischief.

A Lethbridge jury wasted no time delivering the verdict in front of a crowd of the men's supporters.

In 2022, during a protest over COVID restrictions, Gerhard (George) Janzen told CTV News cameras he was prepared to sacrifice a lot for the Coutts movement.

"I'm ready to go to jail for what's right. I'm ready for it," he said at the time.

Two years later and 100 kilometres down the road, jail time is a very real possibility.

Janzen, Alex Van Herk and Marco Van Huigenbos have been found guilty of mischief over $5,000.

Three hours is all it took for a jury to come to the decision, which was met with gasps of surprise by a courtroom full of protest supporters.

"I may be guilty, but I'm not gone," Van Huigenbos said.

"We were there to hold government accountable. The accountability fight goes on. It's never done."

Van Herk in a statement thanked the jury for fulfilling their oaths.

"We'll see how that plays out in terms of other cases down the road when people want to protest against certain government decisions," said Trevor Harrison, University of Lethbridge political scientist.

The maximum sentence for public mischief over $5,000 is 10 years in prison, and some predict a deterrent sentence could be handed down to send a message.

"Given that we're likely to see more protests in the future around other issues," Harrison said.

In its argument, the Crown claimed the evidence shows all three men were key players and became faces of the blockade.

A pre-sentence report has been ordered, and this case will appear again on July 22.

With files from The Canadian Press

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