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Halifax man found not guilty of threats to police in chemicals case

HALIFAX - A Halifax man accused of threatening police with a rare, dangerous chemical has been found not guilty of threatening police and possessing a dangerous weapon.Christopher Phillips was arrested inside an Ottawa hotel on Jan. 21 after police found a large stockpile of his chemicals in two locations in Nova Scotia.The chemicals prompted evacuations in Nova Scotia and at the Ottawa hotel where he was found.The accused has been in jail for more than five months after pleading not guilty to the charges of threatening police officers and possessing a dangerous weapon — the chemical osmium tetroxide.During the trial, Judge David MacAdam heard from a chemist who testified that it's questionable whether the osmium tetroxide that Phillips had could have been a useful weapon.Phillips's lawyer, Mike Taylor, has said his client was joking when he sent an email to a friend suggesting he could throw some of the chemical at officers if they entered his home.In delivering his verdict on Wednesday, MacAdam said the evidence showed some investigators didn't believe that a rambling Dec. 27, 2014, email Phillips sent about throwing a container of the chemical at police was actually a threat.He said their belief it might be a threat relied on an assumption that Phillips might have the chemical with him as he drove to Ottawa, which turned out to be incorrect."There is no evidence that Mr. Phillips's purpose for acquiring the chemical was for a purpose contrary to the public peace," said the judge."He regarded it as an unusual chemical ... and later intended to use it with his other chemicals."Phillips was arrested after police found a large stockpile of his chemicals in a cottage and in a shed next to his home, leading to evacuations of people living near the storage areas.Crown attorney Karen Quigley argued the email needed to be considered along with other factors, such as testimony from Phillips's wife that her husband's mental health was deteriorating before he abruptly departed in a cube van for Ottawa.But Taylor said the wording of the email showed there was no criminal intent.Its text suggests a person could somehow poke a hole in a glass vial with osmium tetroxide as police entered their home, then put on a hazardous materials suit and hold their breath, he said. It goes on to refer to a tiny stick used to poke the hole in the vial becoming a walking stick that would be used by the person who throws the container.The email also speaks of the container being screwed to a credenza, which Taylor said would make it impossible to throw."How can that possibly be construed to be a serious comment or as an instruction to carry out some kind of attack on police. ... It's almost ridiculous to make those kinds of comments unless you're joking," Taylor said.The defence lawyer said in one passage Phillips wrote: "Please understand it would require some really stupid or insane effort to actually turn this hypothesis into a theory by breaking the vial."The email to Phillips's friend was provided to the Halifax police by his wife Gosia Phillips after she contacted them on Jan. 19 asking them to remove the chemical. She testified she was worried her children might find it.Taylor said his client owned the chemical for use in experiments and because it was considered a novelty among chemists.

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