POLITICS

B.C. judge rules couple not guilty of 1 of 4 terror charges, defence starts case

05/14/2015 02:06 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A British Columbia couple accused of plotting to blow up the provincial legislature has been found not guilty of one among four charges even before a trial concludes.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce told jurors that due to legal reasons they will not need to make a decision on count three of the indictment — knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity.

"You will not be required to come to a decision about the guilt or innocence of the accused on this count in the indictment," Bruce said Thursday, a week after jurors were last in court for the trial that began in February.

"You must accept as matter of law that the accused cannot be convicted of this charge and you must not speculate as to why this has occurred."

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody pleaded not guilty to a total of four charges. The remaining charges are conspiring to commit murder, conspiring to place explosives on behalf of a terrorist group and possessing explosives on behalf of a terrorist group.

They are accused of planting three homemade pressure-cooker bombs on the grounds of the legislature on Canada Day in 2013.

Outside court, Crown lawyer Peter Eccles said each charge stands on its own and the ruling makes the jury's job a little easier.

"It's not anything I'd be upset about, it's a matter of law," he said. "And it makes sense."

After the judge's ruling, defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford opened her case by presenting several audio and video clips not included during weeks of evidence displayed by the Crown.

The jury spent several weeks watching an extensive series of videos captured by undercover RCMP officers involved in an elaborate police sting that ultimately led to the charges.

Most of the recordings showed secretly captured conversations between the couple when they were alone, but in one excerpt that ran just over an hour they are seen discussing their plans with one of the officers.

In a video that was recorded on June 17, 2013 in a Kelowna, B.C., hotel room, he asked the pair if they have a "real plan."

"Something realistic that you're going to do? Or not?" said the Mountie they believed was part of the plot.

Nuttall replied that their plan is what they've told him about — firing rockets from a school field in Victoria towards the Esquimalt, B.C., military base.

"I just think that I'm not going to even worry about that because that would take forever," the officer responded.

Korody said they realize it will take a lot of preparation work, including joining a rocket-building club and obtaining explosives. She said they have thought about dropping pressure-cooker bombs around Victoria as practice to gauge the reaction time by police.

The officer responded to the latter idea, saying, "That's doable. It'll send a great message."

Nuttall added that he's "never, ever strayed from my rocket idea." He suggested that detonating the pressure-cooker bombs would not be an operational mission but they could be test blasted in a remote rock quarry.

When the officer said using rockets is a "long-term thing," they agreed.

He suggested they could add C4 explosives to the pressure cookers in the meantime.

"If there's a way to do that and still have the world know why we did it," Nuttall responds, referring to his goal of getting justice for his perceived persecution of Muslims. "Then we'll do that instead."

Neither Nuttall nor Korody testified, and their lawyer did not call any witnesses.

Closing arguments are expected to start May 25, and the judge is set to charge the jury on May 27.

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