They were there to disconnect the power from a house, but two Newfoundland Power workers ended up getting quite a jolt when the homeowner came out swinging an axe.
“He frightened the hell out of me,” John Whelan testified Monday at provincial court in St. John’s in the trial of Edward Eugene Layman.
Following the day-long trial, Layman was found guilty of assault with a weapon and uttering threats. Judge David Orr sentenced the 62-year-old to 60 days of house arrest, with a year’s probation.
Layman was arrested after an incident that happened at his house at 10 Prim Place March 28, 2012.
Whelan and co-worker Don Murphy were assigned to go there after it was discovered Layman was 150 days late paying his electric bill.
When the men knocked on the front door and got no answer, they went to the back garden to disconnect the power meter box.
That’s when Layman came out yelling — angry they were cutting off his power, they said.
“He was disturbed,” Whelan said. “He just wouldn’t listen to us.
“He was loud. He was aggressive in his tone. He just didn’t want us to be there.”
Layman demanded they leave the property.
Layman told them he was on social assistance and offered to pay them $50 towards his bill, but it wasn’t enough to cover the amount required from the $247 bill. Murphy said they needed at least $150.
He then told the men if they didn’t leave the property, “Someone’s going to get hurt over this. Someone’s going underground.”
After more discussion, that’s when Layman went back inside the house and came out with an axe.
With Whelan standing a few feet from the meter box, Layman swung the axe and knocked it off the side of the house.
At that point, the men backed off and Murphy called police.
“We tried to resolve the situation,” Murphy testified. “He was frustrated with the system.”
Murphy said he didn’t take Layman’s initial comments as personal threats, but when asked by Crown prosecutor David D’Intino if he felt threatened when Layman came out with the axe, Murphy replied, “Absolutely.”
When Layman took the stand, he said he had been upset and did tell them to leave the yard, but couldn’t remember uttering threatening comments to them.
He said Whelan had been to the house before to collect money and always settled for $50.
“He would always leave on a good note,” said Layman, who had lived in the house with his 17-year-old son.
But this time, he said, Murphy did the talking and demanded the full amount of the bill owing.
“There was no getting through to him,” Layman said.
He admitted he came out with an axe and swung it at the meter box, but said he didn’t aim it at either of the men.
He said after hitting the meter box, “I realized what I had done, so I went inside and waited for the police to show up.”
In rendering his decision, Orr said the simple fact that Layman had the axe and used it was enough to warrant a guilty verdict.
“Your actions were unacceptable,” the judge said. “It’s not the kind of behaviour society tolerates.”
However, he pointed out that Layman does have mental issues — paranoia and depression — and that rehabilitation, instead of deterrence — must be the primary consideration in sentencing him.
Orr also said to Layman, “While your demeanour was frightening and intimidating, you did not intend to injure the men.”
Conditions of Layman’s sentence include that he participate in any counselling session his supervisor recommends, that he abstain from alcohol, adhere to a curfew and have no contact with the Newfoundland Power employees.