Man admits using bear spray, hatchet during intended fistfight

Found guilty on charges including assault with a weapon

Published on December 20, 2013
Michael John Rakai sits in provincial court in St. John’s Thursday awaiting the continuation of his trial.
— Photo by Glen Whiffen/The Telegram

Michael John Rakai took bear spray and a hatchet to a fistfight.

In provincial court in St. John’s Thursday, the 34-year-old testified in his own defence that he was fed up with the “bullshit” going on between him and William Jordan, and wanted to settle “this once and for all, one on one.”

“My intention was that it was going to be a fistfight,” he testified. “(If) they come at me with a weapon, I’m going to protect myself.”

At the end of the trial Thursday, Rakai — whom the court heard was nicknamed Hatchet — was found guilty by Judge David Orr on a number of charges in connection with an April 9 incident that took place about 11 p.m. on Merrymeeting Road in St. John’s, outside the house Jordan lived in with his girlfriend, Mary Ann Corbett.

Rakai was found guilty on charges of assault with a weapon in relation to Jordan and Corbett, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and damage to property. The Crown withdrew two other charges and one charge was stayed by Orr.

A sentencing hearing will be held March 10, which will allow time for a pre-sentence report requested by defence lawyer Scott Hurley. Meanwhile, Rakai remains free from custody on strict conditions.

In his ruling, Orr noted the accused admitted in his testimony he was carrying the weapons, he had bear-sprayed Jordan and he damaged the step to the house and broke a window with the hatchet. He also admitted he sprayed bear mace in the direction of Corbett.

Rakai’s defence of his actions was that it was self-defence.

Corbett had testified during the trial earlier this week that she was hit with bear spray while standing on the step, and then Rakai swung a hatchet at her as she raced inside the house to get away from him.

In the courtroom Thursday, Rakai stuck up his finger at reporters taking his photo or videotaping him, and cursed when leaving the courtroom, which resulted in a sheriff’s officer reminding him of a release condition to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

Rakai was at times animated on the witness stand.

He described showing up on the street outside the house and yelling for Jordan to come out and fight.

“I said, ‘Come on. Let’s get this on,’” he said, as he raised his voice and opened his arms wide.

Rakai said he decided to arm himself with the bear spray and hatchet that night after he received a text from his friend, Stephanie Fifield, that said Jordan was looking for him and that he had a baseball bat.

“I had no intention of using my weapons,” he said in response to Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten. “I was provoked and I defended myself, end of f------ story.”

When asked why he didn’t call the police after he read the text, he said that, where he comes from — which he said was Regina, Saskatchewan — “they didn’t call police,” but took care of things themselves.

Rakai said when he and Jordan confronted each other on the street, Jordan swung the baseball bat at him and he ducked and bear sprayed Jordan in the face. He said Jordan then made another wild swing at him, and then he sprayed Jordan again.

“After I sprayed him the second time, I swung my hatchet,” said Rakai, noting the hatchet did not make contact with Jordan.

When Jordan testified earlier this week, he said that when he went outside to see what Rakai’s “problem was,” he saw Rakai had brass knuckles and, while the two were shouting at each other, he got sprayed in the face. He was hit with the spray in the face again and, barely able to see, followed Corbett’s voice to get back to the house, he said.

Once inside, he said, he wiped his eyes with his shirt and saw Rakai smash the front window.

Orr noted the charges were supported by the evidence. He said even if he was satisfied there may have been a bat present, any force used in self-defence has to be reasonable.

He called the discharging of bear spray and the swinging of a hatchet excessive force.

“Bill Jordan did get bear sprayed in the face on the night of April 9 in front of his residence,” Orr said.

Earlier in the trial, RNC Const. Jeremy Babstock told the court that when he arrived at the house that night, he saw the front door had orange bear mace on it, while the front patio had several marks on the railing. He said he could even smell the spray, which had a strong odour. Pieces of shattered glass were scattered underneath the front window, he said.

Babstock said both Corbett and Jordan were washing out their eyes with water when he got there.

He said they told officers the man responsible was Rakai, who had been their friend until recently.

When officers went to Rakai’s house, they saw written in black marker, “Hatchet’s House.” He wasn’t home, but was arrested the next day.

 

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