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

Masset Habour Days will be from May 21 to 25 in 2021, in a family-friendly safe environment. A parade in 2018 was a highlight of a previous Harbour Days celebration. (File Photo)
Birds, boats and blooms are featured in 2021 Harbour Days

Community festival runs from May 21 to 25 in Masset

Kayak the humpback whale was found dead on a Haida Gwaii beach on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Marine Education and Research Society)
Kayak the humpback whale found dead on Haida Gwaii beach

Whale was estimated to be only 18 years old

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

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

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Most Read