A Vauxhall man who qualified for legal aid, but chose to forgo it, appeared in Taber court on Jan. 23 and pled guilty to one count of criminal harassment. Wilhelm Giesbrecht, 25, volunteered the plea, fully aware that the Crown was asking for a six-month custodial sentence.
Giesbrecht appeared before the Hon. Justice C. Regier shortly before noon, and after several minutes of discussion between duty counsel Jeremy DeBow, prosecutor Michael Fox, and the judge, the matter was stood down until 1 p.m. Fox wanted time to review the facts of the matter before recommending any sentence that would result in incarceration for the guilty man. The judge said, “Mr. Giesbrecht, we’re going to stand your matter down until one o’clock just so that everybody can be certain that you understand what it is that you’re agreeing to here, because this isn’t a small thing. We want you to understand what’s going to happen if you do what you think you want to do in this moment.” Regier instructed DeBow and Fox to both take time to further speak to the man to ensure he understood the gravity of his circumstances. Giesbrecht seemed fully cognizant of everything that was happening.
After the lunch hour, court resumed and DeBow said that Giesbrecht’s position remained the same after carefully canvassing the facts. He pled guilty to the harassment charge. Two other charges were withdrawn by the Crown. In reviewing the facts of the matter, Fox told the court that the offending behaviour began in March 2023. A local woman told Taber police that she became acquainted with Giesbrecht through Snapchat. She described their relationship as friendly and then flirty. The two met in person only twice at her workplace in town, and Giesbrecht soon began to send sexually explicit messages that made the woman uncomfortable. She made it clear that she was not interested and deleted Giesbrecht from her Snapchat. The situation progressed when Giesbrecht found the woman on Facebook and Instagram and began sending messages to her and her friends. He told her that if she stopped talking to him, he would tell her husband that she was cheating on him. The woman told Giesbrecht to stop talking to her and to leave her alone. He began to leave angry voice memos and calling her names. In November, he sent her a video of him circling her house in Taber. It was at this point that the woman attended the police service to report harassment. While a constable was taking her statement, the woman received a steady stream of messages from Giesbrecht. Within one hour, he sent 19 messages, called 15 times, sent six voice memos and one photo. The harassment continued and Giesbrecht threatened to kill the woman’s dog. He stalked the woman and her friend and the messages continued until he was arrested.
The judge declared a finding of guilt, and sentencing was postponed briefly after the court clerk handed sealed copies of the victim impact statement to the judge, the prosecutor and duty counsel. After reviewing the statement, the court reconvened. Fox used case law from 2009 where a similar crime involved an individual with no criminal record but where the crime was more protracted and serious. He said the circumstances of criminal harassment can cover a “wide range of conduct and blameworthiness,” according to case law. Fox referenced case law from 2020 as well. He said that the victim impact statement confirmed that criminal harassment incurs psychological harm rather than physical harm. He recommended six months in jail with multiple conditions attached, including one year of probation after release.
Judge Regier agreed with the Crown’s recommendation and cited the victim impact statement as a determining factor. Giesbrecht was escorted out of the courtroom by deputies and taken into custody.