18-month house arrest sentence given to man who posted antisemitic posters around Ottawa

Paul Koppe, 31, was depressed and 'consumed' by Covid-19 conspiracy theories, a mental health assessment prepared for his sentencing said.

18-month house arrest sentence given to man who posted antisemitic posters around Ottawa
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An Ottawa man will spend 18 months under house arrest after he pleaded guilty to placing antisemitic posters around Ottawa's west end in 2021.

Paul Koppe, 31, was depressed and "consumed" by Covid-19 conspiracy theories, according to a mental health assessment prepared for his sentencing.

His mental state "rendered him susceptible to being consumed by conspiracy theories,” the assessment by the Royal Ottawa Hospital said.

Between October and December 2021, Koppe placed more than 80 antisemitic posters and stickers in 20 locations across Barrhaven and the west end, targeting public parks, garbage containers, streetlights, and hydro transformers.

He was seen doing this on a garbage bin at Algonquin College, as well as at Ben Franklin Place on Centrepoint Drive, the Ottawa Sun reports.

Koppe was arrested on December 8, 2021 after images of him circulated.

Police searched his home and discovered posters on his wall expressing antisemitic sentiments. They also found several items of Nazi-themed paraphernalia, including a letter opener with a swastika and a vintage military hat.

“Let’s be clear: Mr. Koppe’s behaviour amounted to a hate crime,” said Ontario Court Justice Matthew Webber. “He harmed a community at large by his activities. His beliefs that he disseminated were deplorable, hateful, dangerous and in every respect unacceptable in our community.”

The Ottawa Police Service's hate and bias crime unit had charged Koppe with 26 counts of hate-motivated mischief. The charges were bumped up in June to willful promotion of hatred, a charge that required the green light from Ontario's attorney general.

Koppe pleaded guilty in 2023 to the charge.

He expressed remorse during the sentencing and apologized to the court and the community, promising that he would not engage in hateful acts again.

Webber stated that he believed Koppe's remorse was sincere.

Dr. Helen Ward, a psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, treated Koppe and wrote that he "no longer subscribes to any of the anti-Semitic beliefs that motivated his crimes."

During a sentencing hearing in January, Crown prosecutor Tim Wightman advocated for a jail term of six to nine months.

Koppe’s defense lawyer, Rodney Sellar, suggested a lengthy conditional sentence followed by a period of probation.

Last week, Webber imposed a conditional sentence that spared Koppe jail time, instead requiring 18 months of house arrest followed by two years of probation.

“Hate-mongering will not be tolerated in our community, and when it does occur, such crimes will be sentenced harshly,” Webber said.

Webber also presented an "eloquently written" letter signed by members of Ottawa's senior Jewish leadership, expressing the impact of Koppe's crimes.

“The injuries to the hearts, minds and souls of community members are deep, and sadly, are now woven into the fabric of intergenerational trauma. They sparked fear and hurt across the community,” according to the letter, filed with the court in January.

“I accept without reservation that (Koppe’s) antisemitic acts would have inflicted emotional scars on the Jewish community and would have left fear, pain and mistrust in their wake,” Webber said.

“His behaviour amounted to a sustained intentional hate crime. His offending occurred over multiple days, which provided him multiple opportunities to cease such behaviour on his own accord. He did not do so. His crimes ceased with his arrest.”

Webber has completed 130 hours of community service since his arrest and will need to complete another 120 as part of his sentence. He will be "bound by home confinement" for the 18-month span, with exceptions for employment, medical appointmnets, and counselling and treatment.

“You can’t possess or consume alcohol, drugs or cannabis because you’re (technically) in jail,” Webber told Koppe. “You wouldn’t be allowed to consume any of those if you were locked up on Innes Road (at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre) and you won’t be allowed to consume any of those while on this sentence.”

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