The inmates involved in a riot at the province’s largest prison last summer yelled to police that they would cut hostages’ throats if their demands weren’t met, a provincial court judge heard Thursday.
Details of what happened at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John’s in August of last year were revealed during the case of Justin Christopher Hopkins — one of the six men charged after the incident.
The 30-year-old Hopkins pleaded guilty to mischief causing damage over $5,000 to the interior of the prison.
Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten and defence lawyer Jeff Brace agreed to schedule the sentencing for April 4.
Hopkins was the fourth of the group to unexpectedly enter guilty pleas within the last two days.
On Wednesday, Justin Owens and Philip James Hollihan pleaded guilty to obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use or operation of property. Owens was sentenced to six months in jail. Hollihan will be sentenced April 15.
Earlier Thursday, Julien Matthew Squires became the only one of the group to admit responsibility for the more serious charge.
The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to hostage-taking, as well as mischief by causing more than $5,000 in damage to property.
Squires’ lawyer, Nick Avis, and Patten set sentencing for Monday.
The Crown agreed to withdraw the charge of hostage-taking against Owens, Hollihan and Hopkins.
During the proceedings for Hopkins, the facts of the case, which Patten read in court, indicated that Hopkins took part in the group’s rampage, which began at around 10:50 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2013, when inmates left their cells with their faces masked in the prison’s unit 3B.
The group caused close to $100,000 in damage. Windows were smashed, doors were destroyed, floors were flooded, parts of the ceiling were torn down, walls were wrecked and surveillance cameras were covered with butter.
Prison staff reported that some of the suspects had weapons made from glass from a microwave door.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was called for fear the inmates would escape.
When police arrived, inmates were yelling through the window that they had three hostages.
A negotiator was brought to the scene just after midnight.
One of the inmates involved in the riot who spoke to the negotiator on the phone said the hostages had been cut, but not seriously. He said if they didn’t get cigarettes, they were going to cut the hostages’ throats.
Corrections officers who tried to step in were also threatened.
“The first guards through the door are going to bleed,” one of the inmates said to them. “We’re going to kill you f--kers. You’re dead as soon as you come in.”
While the surveillance cameras were smeared with butter, shortly afterwards the image on one of them was clear enough to allow staff to recognize some of the men.
Shortly after proceedings in Hopkins’ case, the cases of the remaining two suspects — Justin Wiseman, 22, and Adam Hayden, 26 — was called in Newfoundland Supreme Court for what was supposed to be a trial.
However, defence lawyers Jonathan Noonan (for Wiseman) and Mark Gruchy (for Hayden) told Judge Mike Madden they will seek to change the direction of the case and have the proceedings become a preliminary inquiry.
By law, the notice to do so must be made 14 days before proceedings. However, Noonan and Gruchy claim they may qualify since new and relevant information in the case had only been disclosed to them in the last few weeks.
Depending on the outcome of their discussions with Patten, a hearing to argue the issue may be required first. If not, they said they would go ahead with the inquiry today.
An inquiry is held to determine whether there’s enough evidence to go to trial. Lawyers can also use it to gauge the strength of the evidence against their clients.