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More accused arguing own case

Bail hearing becomes two-hour ordeal

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It's become a major issue for Manitoba justice officials: Accused who represent themselves clog the courts, waste valuable resources and turn hearings into three-ring circuses.

Exhibit A was on display Wednesday, when a Winnipeg man facing serious charges appeared before a judge seeking to be released on bail. What followed was a nearly two-hour ordeal that was anything but routine.

Darrell Ackman, 44, is charged with 18 offences including living off the avails of prostitution, making child pornography, sexual assault and possessing the proceeds of crime. None of the allegations has been proven, and he is presumed innocent. A trial has been set for next spring.

Ackman parted ways with his lawyer last year and elected to defend himself. He told Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull he has been burying himself in the Criminal Code for hours each day while behind bars in solitary confinement for his own protection.

"I'm reading this book, and it's starting to absorb," said Ackman.

The result was numerous clashes on Wednesday between the accused and the judge, who ultimately rejected his bid to be released. Saull repeatedly cautioned Ackman to stay on track, to not interrupt him and to stop wandering into irrelevant matters while pleading his case.

Much of it was contained in a massive 31-page affidavit he filed, along with transcripts of previous court hearings, which Saull said he took pains to read every word of given the fact Ackman has no lawyer.

"I'm trying to be patient here. You're skating off in tangents," Saull said at one point. "I've given you more time than I've given any lawyer. But you have to put up a chip on your end of the table. So far you've given me nothing."

He also told Ackman on several occasions he should consider getting legal counsel.

"I've been in this business for a while. Might I offer you a piece of advice. Have a hard, hard look, notwithstanding your past experiences with lawyers," said Saull.

Ackman insisted he can do a better job than counsel who would be "making mistakes while I'm paying them."

Earlier this summer, judges from all three levels of Manitoba court system announced sweeping changes were being considered to make the system faster, friendlier and more efficient. One of the key areas under review is the growing number of self-represented accused. A working group has been struck to come up with recommendations.

At one point Wednesday, Ackman said he planned to seek a change-of-venue for his upcoming trial. A motion is set to be argued in October. Saull inquired as to where he wanted the case heard.

"Russia," replied Ackman.

Justice sources say he's planning to ask for the case to be heard in B.C.

He also went on a lengthy tirade about advice his rabbi gave him and what he called deplorable conditions in jail.

"I've been called names, taunted, bullied. I've been sprayed with urine and poo in jail," said Ackman.

A court-ordered ban prevents evidentiary details of the case against Ackman, and submissions made in court, from being published.

Court documents show police began investigating Ackman in 2012 after learning he was allegedly responsible for "numerous Internet advertisements offering escorts in Winnipeg" involving runaway teen girls who were forced to perform sex act in exchange for cash.

Police seized nude images of several teens, which may have been used to promote prostitution under the guise of an escort agency. Ackman allegedly operated from a rented basement suite on Hunterbrook Road.

Ackman was released on bail on those offences, but was rearrested in May 2013 after witnesses said he put up posters near Grant Park High School and the U of W Collegiate recruiting attractive people for a movie about his life. He has been in jail ever since.

Earlier this month, Ackman was convicted of two counts of breaching bail and sentenced to 90 days of time already served. He has filed a notice to appeal that guilty verdict.

Ackman has also made headlines for provocative videos he posted on YouTube under the name Mr. JetzTV. He got 130 people in Fort Whyte to sign nomination papers so he could run in the provincial byelection there in 2012 despite being out on bail for pending criminal charges. He got 19 votes.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 B4

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