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“I just wanted people to know that she was not doing her job,”
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Mississauga News - May 29, 2007 - By John Stewart
Pothole poet was merely a satirist: lawyer
Antonio Batista may not know the meaning of the word satire, but he was employing it when he wrote the poem about potholes and Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito that resulted in criminal charges being filed against him, says lawyer Clayton Ruby.
After the first day of Batista’s trial on charges of uttering a death threat and intimidation against Saito, Ruby told reporters yesterday afternoon that he is confident his client will be acquitted.
“Freedom of speech is guaranteed in this country,” the famed criminal lawyer said.
Although Ruby’s case rests on the premise that a poem called “Parked Cars and Potholes in the City of Mississauga” is satirical, his client testified that he had never heard the word until Ruby explained its meaning to him.
“I would have to look in the dictionary to get the right definition,” the 75-year-old said while testifying in his own defence.
He said he wrote the poem, which alludes to putting Saito in a pot hole the size of a grave and making sure she “is in heaven and out of the (political) race,” because he didn’t believe Saito was doing her job. The Churchill Meadows resident had complained to the councillor about a number of issues, and was frustrated that he had not received answers quickly.
When Crown Attorney Jennifer Goulin suggested the senior citizen was trying to frighten and intimidate the politician with the poem, which asked God to “take care of this soul for ever and ever,” he denied it.
“I just wanted people to know that she was not doing her job,” he said. “I never thought it would be like this , with her calling the police and them harassing me.”
Goulin replied, “if you think that’s harrassing, how do you think Ms. Saito feels when she reads a poem that talks about her being buried in a pothole?”
Earlier in the day, Saito testified that she found the poem, “extremely concerning and very frightening,” when she read it in early February of 2006. “I was very concerned that someone posted a poem around the community with my photo and it says someone is going to dig a hole and put my body in it.”
She referred the matter to police, who laid charges almost immediately.
Court was shown the interview that police conducted the next day with Batista in which he lied about writing the poem. He admitted on the stand today that he did author it.
Mr. Justice J.J. Keaney will rule today on whether testimony by University of Toronto English Professor Dr. Dennis Duffy, an expert in the history of satirical literature, will be admissible in the case.
The trial ends today.
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