Self represented man gets assault charges stayed

A Whitehorse man who won a self-represented appeal of his own assault conviction last year has had his charges stayed. John Kaswandik was given a new jury trial.

A Whitehorse man who won a self-represented appeal of his own assault conviction last year has had his charges stayed.

John Kaswandik, an American citizen living in Whitehorse, was given a new jury trial after he successfully argued his original trial had been unfair because of an RCMP officer’s improper testimony.

Kaswandik had been charged with assault after an incident in the fall of 2009 or early 2010 during which his then-wife, Leet Meuller, alleged Kaswandik attacked her, forced her onto a bed, pressed his knees against her chest and put his hands around her throat for about 10 seconds.

Kaswandik, in response, asserted that it was Meuller who had been frequently violent and was responsible for this particular incident. He had, he said, merely been defending himself.

The two met in the U.S. in 2008 and have a four-year-old daughter.

At the trial in 2012, an RCMP officer gave testimony that Kaswandik had been violent in the past, an assertion Kaswandik disputed. Further, he argued on appeal that the officer’s testimony should not have been included in the trial because the claim of a violent history was based only on brief interviews with Meuller.

Prior to going to trial, Kaswandik’s legal aid lawyer suggested that he agree to go through the Yukon’s Domestic Violence Treatment Option, which would have required a peace bond between Kaswandik and Meuller, but no admission of criminal responsibility on either part. Kaswandik refused, opting for a jury trial instead.

After his conviction, for which he was given a one-year conditional sentence, Kaswandik dismissed his legal aid lawyer and fought a self-represented appeal.

After winning his appeal, Kaswandik claimed that the Yukon justice system treated him unfairly because he is an American and a man.

“If I was either a Canadian or a woman, this wouldn’t be happening to me,” he told the News in July. He declined to comment for this story.

“Basically it was a he-said-she-said. I was arrested and presumed guilty just on what my ex-wife had said and no evidence of any sort. Normally, charges would not even be brought. Because I’m American, they were,” he said.

On top of the problems with his trial, Kaswandik said that it took 14 months to come to trial in the first place, and that he was on probation the whole time.

“There is no point in a new trial. I’ve already served a severe sentence relative to the offences of which I have been charged,” he said.

He applied to have the charges stayed prior to his new trial.

Yukon’s legal aid director, Nils Clarke, said his organization did everything it could to make sure Kaswandik was treated fairly, including pursuing the domestic violence treatment resolution that would have been the best outcome for all parties.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read