NEWS

Nelson Hart on trial for throwing paper plate at HMP officers

02/17/2015 01:01 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT
Nelson Hart, the Newfoundlander acquitted of killing his twin daughters following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Mr. Big stings, is again on trial — for throwing a paper plate at correctional officers.

Hart, 45, is alleged to have threatened one correctional officer at Her Majesty's Penitentiary — the largest prison in the province — and assaulting two others in January 2013 while he was still incarcerated.

Last August, the Crown withdrew murder charges against Hart for allegedly drowning his two daughters in 2002. Shortly after, he was released from prison. Hart had been convicted in 2007 of drowning his three-year-old twins in Gander Lake, after Hart gave a confession during a Mr. Big Sting conducted by members of the RCMP. 

In his latest brush with the law, the Crown alleges Hart, who has pleaded not guilty to uttering threats and assaulting a peace officer, used a paper plate as a weapon.

In surveillance video played Tuesday in St. John's provincial court, Hart is seen picking up a paper plate and throwing it in the direction of the cell door, where correctional officers were standing. 

The plate, which had a small amount of food and plastic utensils laid on top, flutters up in the air in front of him and quickly falls to the ground.

The Crown contends that constitutes assault — even though the plate didn't hit any of the officers.

'We wouldn't want to be beaten up with a paper plate'

Defence lawyer Jeff Brace said the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's investigating officer on the case charged Hart based on an unsigned, one-paragraph statement from one of the correctional officers.  

Brace said Const. Cody Dunphy hadn't questioned the other guards or viewed the video before charging Hart.

The correctional officers said they were giving Hart his medication, when he refused to open his mouth to show he had swallowed it, which is the protocol at HMP.

Several correctional officers testified that Hart became aggressive, was cursing and yelling, and threatened one guard, saying he would stab him the first chance he got.

One of the guards testified that Hart had given her the finger, and was always saying he was treated differently than other inmates. 

The correctional officer said that wasn't the case.

Brace accused her of having a problem with Hart — an allegation she flatly denied.

Brace also suggested to another correctional officer that they were "hell-bent" on getting Hart on some charge.

"We wouldn't want to be beaten up with a paper plate," Brace said sarcastically.

Crown prosecutor Mike Murray said there was no reason for Brace to be disrespectful of the witness.Judge Lois Skanes agreed.

The Crown rested its case Tuesday afternoon and the defence called no evidence.

Skanes told Hart she would deliver her decision on Wednesday.

However, that will not be the end of Hart's legal troubles — he is expected back in provincial court this week on other charges stemming from his behaviour while in custody. 

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