Tyson George Billings, a prominent figure in this winter’s Freedom Convoy in Ottawa who is also known as Freedom George, pleaded guilty in court Wednesday to one of several charges against him and has been released from jail.
Billings was sentenced to six months of probation and is expected to return to his home in High Prairie, Alta., court heard.
He pleaded guilty to one count of counselling to commit mischief, and the other charges he faced were withdrawn.
He is the convoy’s first major figure to plead guilty.
Greeted by dozens of supporters as he exited the courthouse, Billings agreed with the court’s assessment he was taking part in a protest and got carried away.
“I got caught up in the moment, sure, who wouldn’t? We’re all freedom fighters, everybody got caught up in the moment,” he said.
“I accept responsibility for the mischief charge. … I don’t regret anything.”
Freedom George is free, pleading guilty to one charge, the others were withdrawn. He will return to AB, and be on probation for 6 months. <a href=”https://t.co/4d2WfsYMp5″>pic.twitter.com/4d2WfsYMp5</a>
By taking responsibility for his role in the protests, Billings mitigated the pursuit of a long sentence, according to the Crown. The joint submission from the Crown and Billings’ lawyer asked for him to be released with time served.
Billings told reporters outside the courhouse he was treated well in jail, and his fellow inmates treated him like a celebrity. He also said he will leave Ottawa “as fast as possible” but will continue to fight for freedom, potentially as part of future protests.
Billings’ Feb. 19 arrest was broadcast to thousands of viewers who regularly tuned into his social media feeds during the protest that saw Ottawa’s downtown occupied for weeks.
His booming chants of “Freedom” and “Let’s go” have become synonymous with the ongoing “Freedom Movement.”
During the protests, Billings would often appear alongside Pat King, another prominent figure and one of the convoy leaders.
The two were co-accused of two counts each of intimidation and obstructing police, and one count each of mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to obstruct police, counselling intimidation, disobeying a court order and counselling to disobey a court order.
Supporters with close contact to Billings expected his release following his 10 a.m. court appearance.
On Sunday, Selena Paley, one of the Freedom Central Canada organizers, said she and two other members of Freedom Central Canada were travelling to Ottawa to pick Billings up and support him after his release.
She asked supporters to come to the Ottawa Courthouse in support of Billings — who she describes as being “integral” to trucker safety during the Ottawa protests and “a man who put a lot on the line during the Freedom Convoy.”
Continued support for Freedom Central Canada
Throughout his detention, Billings, usually through supporters, has continued to solicit funds through his social media accounts and website, selling Freedom Convoy-related merchandise.
In April, he spoke directly to supporters from the Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, asking them to buy merchandise from him and support Freedom Central Canada, which for many has become a favoured source of information and updates on Freedom-related movements since police cleared protesters from Ottawa streets.
“I’m doing OK, I am missing my family a lot, though,” he said in a phone call broadcast live to supporters.
He told supporters how to financially support him, saying his mom had paid a $30,000 retainer for his legal counsel. He said his mom is also covering his bills including child support payments and truck loans.
Billings said he was giving information directly to Freedom Central Canada to share with supporters.
In recent weeks, Freedom Central Canada has featured well-known anti-vaxxer Chris Sky and other prominent figures in the Freedom Movement, including one person who’s campaigning across Canada to Ottawa in support of a future protest.
The two people behind that group — Selena Paley and Cody Kuntz — travelled to Ottawa to welcome Billings after this release.
“We are happy with the result and the co-operation from the Crown prosecutor,” said Paley.
“The one guilty plea of counselling to commit mischief I think is reasonable in this case. Whether George is guilty or not is not up for us to decide.”