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Ex-weatherman J.J. Clarke found not criminally responsible for harassment, threats


“I am very happy that the case has been moved out of the criminal courts and I’m looking forward to better times.”

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J.J. Clarke, former CTV Ottawa weatherman and charity ambassador, has been found not criminally responsible on charges of criminal harassment — including threats referencing Ottawa Valley killer Basil Borutski.

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Ontario Court Justice Frank Crewe made the NCR finding on consent from both Crown Attorney Marie Dufort and defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon. The finding was anchored in a report filed by a forensic psychiatrist, who concluded that J.J. Clarke, whose legal name is Ron Rowat, didn’t know the wrongfulness of his actions, was acting on irrational motives and had paranoid beliefs.

The Ontario Review Board, a panel of psychiatrists, judges, lawyers and public representatives, will now decide his future and the conditions that come with it. Clark is not in custody and is awaiting a future ORB hearing that has yet to be scheduled.

Rowat, known for charity work across 35 years, fell from grace in December 2020, when he started harassing and threatening two women and a man — all left fearing their safety. It was a real fear because they knew Rowat, 67, had legally registered firearms. Not to mention that, in his video threat messages to the complainants, he raised the name of Borutski, an Ottawa Valley man whose insecurity and deep hatred led him to kill three women in 2015.

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While reading the agreed statement of facts in court on Wednesday, Dufort described the video-message threats as “vicious, venomous, vulgar and vile.”

In the haunting, threatening video messages, Rowat said: “Talk to Basil Borutski. He’s in jail. You girls got off easy.”

Rowat was arrested on Jan. 28, 2021, after police found him sleeping in the back seat of his parked Cadillac, its engine running. Police also seized his hunting rifles from a friend’s place.

“I am very happy that the case has been moved out of the criminal courts and I’m looking forward to better times,” Rowat, 67, said in a statement to this newspaper.

In court, his lawyer, Greenspon, thanked the compassion and professionalism of the Crown attorney, Dufort, and later told this newspaper, “This resolution is the best thing for Ron and the community that he served for so many years.”

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The longtime broadcaster signed off for the last time as J.J. Clarke in May 2020, citing health reasons, namely Stage 4 liver cirrhosis.

When his exit was announced in 2020, CTV Ottawa management said in a statement that “no one is more deserving of a happy retirement than J.J. Clarke.”

But it hasn’t quite been the retirement he had forecast as he has struggled with money and health issues and then criminal charges.

In an interview after his arrest, Rowat said his world started to collapse when the network cancelled his popular talent show, Homegrown Cafe.

And he said that after anchorman Max Keeping left the station in 2010, he leaned hard on red wine. After a few caring colleagues took him aside and told him to take time off to get sober, he did on April 13, 2018.

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“I had already lost everything and I wasn’t going to lose my job. My voice. I kept thinking I can’t lose this — my voice.

“I thank them for getting me sober,” he said in a series of interviews after he was released from jail.

In November 2019, the city named a Kanata park in his honour. Kanata South councillor Allan Hubley and Mayor Jim Watson were at the ceremony, and the weatherman says it’s a day he won’t forget.

It was Hubley who brought the motion to council to name the Bridlewood Drive park after J.J. Clarke to honour his years of weather news and charity work. “J.J. Clarke has been a prominent fixture on the CHEO and Heart Institute telethons for over 20 years, helping CHEO to raise over $10 million just this year,” Hubley told CTV at the ceremony.

As a goodwill ambassador for CTV Ottawa, Rowat attended around 75 charity events a year as a prized MC and auctioneer.

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