'Godson' roped into lying for ex-gun lobby president
When Peter Erkens-Goss was introduced to a former One Nation candidate who his mother was dating, he believed the man had his best interests at heart.
But he was quickly sucked into Karel Zegers' web of lies.
The ex-gun lobby president, whom Erkens-Goss took to be his godfather, wanted him to create a few anonymous websites.
Erkens-Goss thought Zegers wanted to keep his personal information off the sites because he'd been labelled a Nazi when he ran for One Nation in a 1998 federal by-election.
Instead Zegers used the sites, which included shootersvictoria.com, to defame the Victorian Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, the organisation Zegers had once presided over.
Zegers began relentlessly harassing Erkens-Goss with a barrage of phone calls and emails.
Then he asked Erkens-Goss to lie to the Supreme Court for him.
"You want me to lie?" he asked Zegers via email in December 2017.
"They have been lying all the time, so even though it may seem reprehensible, we may have to a bit of that as well... We will beat the bastards, that's what they are," Zegers replied.
Erkens-Goss eventually agreed to concoct a story.
Replying to a court subpoena to give evidence, Erkens-Goss said the websites were owned by a man named Steven, or "stevek64", who had won the domain in an online competition. He claimed he had no interaction with that person.
However, it all unravelled when Zegers faced a defamation trial in 2018 over slurs sent to the lobby's board and chief executive via email addresses connected to the websites.
Zegers claimed he did not write any of the emails.
On the third day of the trial, Justice John Dixon asked why Zegers' computer had not been forensically examined.
Deleted emails between Zegers and Erkens-Goss were found and Zegers admitted he had lied in court.
He was ordered to fork out the second largest defamation pay-out in Victorian history, $810,000, to the gun lobby.
But it took more than four years for prosecutors to charge Zegers and Erkens-Goss for lying to the court.
Zegers was sentenced to a 12-month community corrections order in February, after pleading guilty to two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice and one of perjury.
Erkens-Goss, who lives in Adelaide, admitted lying about who owned the websites. He told police he was having a "bad day" when he agreed to lie for Zegers.
Defence barrister Gillian Walker SC said Erkens-Goss had been manipulated by Zegers and was honest with police about the incident.
"He placed a great deal of confidence and trust in Mr Zegers, by virtue of him being his godfather, he believed he would not do anything to harm Mr Erkens-Goss," she said.
Erkens-Goss avoided a conviction on Wednesday and was instead handed a three-year adjourned undertaking for good behaviour in Melbourne's County Court.
"He persuaded you to lie and placed you under pressure to do so," Judge Wendy Wilmoth said.