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Female Mountie accused at trial of flirting to obtain information at Coutts blockade

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — An undercover female Mountie who helped break up an alleged murder plot at the Coutts blockade in 2022 was accused in court Friday of flirting with one of the accused to acquire information.
Anti-mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks the highway the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. A second RCMP officer who went undercover as a supporter at the Coutts, Alta., blockade in 2022 has testified that one of two men charged with conspiracy to commit murder said all police officers at the blockade "should be hung." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — An undercover female Mountie who helped break up an alleged murder plot at the Coutts blockade in 2022 was accused in court Friday of flirting with one of the accused to acquire information.

Defence lawyer Marilyn Burns pointed to a number of heart emojis in text messages between the Mountie and Burns’s client, Anthony (Tony) Olienick.

The officer, who can’t be identified and was testifying under cross-examination from Burns, said a heart emoji in this context was a short form of showing approval for a topic, not a person.

"But it can also mean two people loving each other," said Burns.

"I'm not sure how other people interpret it,” replied the officer.

The lawyer pushed on: "It should have been apparent to you that Tony was beginning to be interested in having a relationship with you that was beyond friendly.”

The officer replied, "I didn't feel that way. That wasn't the impression I was getting."

Burns continued: “You were flirting with him."

No, said the officer: "I wouldn't say I was.”

Court has heard that undercover officers are forbidden both ethically and legally from using seduction to acquire information.

Olienick and Chris Carbert are on trial in Court of King’s Bench charged with conspiring to murder police officers at the protest blockade.

The blockade of vehicles at Coutts, Alta., paralyzed traffic at the Alberta-U.S. border for two weeks in early 2022. It was among a number of countrywide protests against COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates.

The undercover officer, known in court as HQ1516, was the second of two female undercover officers who posed as volunteers to infiltrate the protesters’ inner circle at Coutts.

Earlier Friday, HQ1516 testified Olienick displayed a strong dislike of police, believing they should all be hanged, and told her he had guns and ammunition at the ready if officers moved in.

"He was standing up for what he believed in,” the officer told the jury.

“This is the hill he was prepared to die on.”

HQ1516 told court Olienick was worried the RCMP would try to break up the blockade in the middle of the night, catching protesters off guard and defenceless.

She said Olienick told her he had firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition available if police made a move -- enough to equip everyone at Smuggler’s Saloon, referring to the local bar that had become the unofficial headquarters of the protesters.

The officer also detailed a conversation she and her undercover partner had with Olienick, asking him if he needed them to pick anything up before they came back to Coutts.

"I just remember Tony looking happily surprised, and (he) said actually he did have a package coming in tonight ... stuff that might be difficult for him to bring in ... if we knew what he meant," she said.

"It would be really heavy and very important."

The operative said both Olienick and Carbert seemed concerned the package, described as a hockey bag, would be too heavy for them to carry.

Was it explosives? the undercover officers asked.

"I remember Chris (Carbert) laughing and saying, ‘Not explosives,’" she said.

Was it guns? they asked.

"I just remember Chris and Tony making eye contact and they didn't deny it,” she said.

“I took that as acknowledgment that it was guns.”

Burns offered another explanation to the court: that the accused laughed and smiled about the guns and explosives questions because the very idea was so ludicrously outlandish.

The first undercover officer has testified Olienick told her he considered police the willing pawns of Canada’s “devil” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and vowed that if police tried to break up the protest he would “slit their throats.”

Olienick and Carbert were arrested soon after these meetings, with Mounties seizing a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition from trailers in the area.

The two are also charged with mischief and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. Olienick faces a further charge of being in possession of a pipe bomb.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2024.

-- By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press