Trent White was found guilty last month of trying to throw a female crew member overboard
A Corner Brook judge has agreed to hear a local’s skipper’s application to reopen his trial, even though he has already convicted the skipper of trying to throw a female crew member overboard.
Trent John White was convicted last month of aggravated assault, assault and damage to property in connection with incidents that occurred while he was skipper of a commercial fishing vessel participating in the 2017 turbot fishery.
The 65-foot vessel had left Rocky Harbour for the Labrador Sea near Red Bay to take part in the fishery that summer. In the Strait of Belle Isle, White tried to throw the woman — who was also his girlfriend — overboard.
Provincial court Judge Wayne Gorman declared White guilty after a trial, saying he had found White’s evidence to be purposely disingenuous, dishonest at times, unreliable, incredible and fanciful. He accepted evidence from two other crew members who testified they had heard the woman screaming and saw her hanging head-first over the side of the boat, White standing close to her.
A sentencing hearing for White had been a scheduled for Dec. 14, but it was postponed after his new lawyer, Ellen O’Gorman, told the court her client wanted to apply to reopen his trial. The complainant, who was not called to testify at the first trial, intends to testify if it is reopened.
By law, a judge has the discretion to reopen a case of the circumstances meet certain criteria, which are more stringent after conviction.
The judge ordered O’Gorman to file a written application by Dec. 17 and scheduled the hearing of the application for Dec. 21. White’s application wasn’t filed on time. When the hearing date came, his lawyer acknowledge she had been “overly optimistic” in thinking she could make the three-day deadline. The judge acknowledged he should not have agreed with the short time period.
Gorman said he had two options: to deny the request to file the application to reopen the case because it was late, or to ignore the missed deadline, given the situation, and allow the application to be heard.
“I chose the latter option because the application has been filed and I accept Ms. O’Gorman’s reasons for having failed to comply with my filing order as reasonable. The time set was too short,” he wrote, noting the Crown consented to the application being filed and the serious nature of White’s charges.
He also noted, however, that lawyers “should never ignore” filing deadlines and should apply for an extension if needed.
White’s application included an affidavit from the complainant in his case, who said she believes her testimony “would have a direct impact on the ultimate issue.” She didn’t say what evidence she would provide.
Gorman will hear White’s application to reopen his case next week.
During White’s trial, two other crew members told the court they were in the wheelhouse when they heard the woman yelling. One of the men described it as a “desperate scream for help.”
The men said they ran to the back of the vessel and saw the woman hanging head-first over the side, White standing close to her. One of the men told the court he saw White let the woman go when they arrived.
“(She) was over the side of the boat with her fist grabbed — her hand grabbed around the fish trays, and one leg was still in over the boat. So immediately we just grabbed (her) and hauled her back in over,” the man testified.
The other man told the court if the woman had been thrown into the water, she couldn’t have been rescued, since the sea was rough at the time. He said after the woman was safely back aboard, White lay on the deck in a fetal position and told her that she would end up that way if she kept “jonesing for drugs.”
The court heard the pair had argued consistently throughout the trip about the woman’s alleged use of opiate painkillers.
A third crewman testified he heard White ask one of the others to throw the woman overboard.
On another day, while near the entrance to Cook’s Harbour, White threw the woman’s cellphone into the ocean.
White also took the stand at trial and acknowledged throwing the woman’s phone overboard, but denied assaulting her during the trip.