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Crown stays charges against 'Alaskan Romeo' for breaking quarantine rules in Banff

RCMP charged the man, who was travelling from Alaska to the U.S., with failing to follow the rules to isolate set out in the Quarantine Act when he stayed overnight in Banff.

BANFF – Crown prosecutors have stayed charges against a Kentucky man for failing to follow Canada's rules to isolate in Banff last summer while travelling from Alaska to the mainland Unites States. 

John Pennington, 40, made a virtual appearances in provincial court Monday (Feb. 8), when federal Crown counsel Alex Bernard made an application to stay the charges against him. 

Pennington was charged in June by Banff RCMP with failing to follow the federal Quarantine Act. He was dubbed the "Alaskan Romeo" in media reports because he was alleged to have gone to Banff to meet someone he met online. 

Pennington also appeared in court on Jan. 27 in front of Judge C. L. Daniel and denied that he broke the rules the federal government put in place for those travelling from Alaska to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic to isolate during his trip. 

Pennington expressed frustration with the legal trouble he found himself in, telling the court he only stayed in Banff for one night and followed the directions given to him by border service agents when he left Alaska en route to the U.S. while transporting a vehicle for his employer.

"I do not understand where the confusion is here," he said, adding he had proof he only stayed in the resort community for one night. 

"I think you should either hire a lawyer or be in touch with the Crown prosecutor's office with proof of where you were on what nights," said the judge. 

Bernard said the allegations were that the accused stayed two or three days in Banff. At the time, Banff RCMP charged Pennington after receiving multiple complaints about an American visitor staying at a local hotel and visiting the gondola. 

"Currently, your honour, the allegations that we are aware of is that Mr. Pennington was travelling from Alaska and he actually stayed for more than one day in Banff and he was also with another individual who we understand to be Canadian," Bernard said. "As far as I understand, they were not travelling with him." 

In March, the federal government announced it would close the border with the U.S. for non-residents and non-essential travel. However, there were exemptions granted to those travelling to or from the state of Alaska, if is was for non-discretionary purposes. 

At the time, the Canadian Border Service Agency stated that upon entry to Canada, a traveller would be required to explain the purpose of their trip and once admitted to the country, they are directed not to make any unnecessary stops, to avoid contact with other and to take the most direct route. 

At the time, Banff RCMP said their investigation found that Pennington did not take the most direct route, and alleged the purpose of his visit to Banff was to meet someone from Calgary. 

“Pennington chose to divert from the direct route and came to Banff, accompanied by a woman from Calgary. Pennington was issued a violation ticket for contravening an order of a medical officer of health,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr said at the time. 

-with files from Jenna Dulewich



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