After hearing three weeks of Crown testimony in the trial of four men believed to have been involved in four violent home invasions in the St. John’s area last year, the defence has opted to call no evidence.
Lawyers Derek Hogan (representing Gary Hennessey), Michelle Elliott (for Tyler Donahue), Shanna Wicks (for Mitchell Nippard), along with Abdifatah Mohamed, who is representing himself, all told Judge Mike Madden in provincial court in St. John’s Monday they would not call anyone to testify.
But before final arguments would be heard, Mohamed indicated he would likely retain the services of Toronto lawyer Darren Sederoff to argue an application for a directed verdict.
“I’m hoping he will be able to appear in person tomorrow at 10 a.m.,” Mohamed told the judge, adding he has been in communication with Sederoff throughout the trial.
However, Crown prosecutor Chris McCarthy told The Telegram that when he spoke to Sederoff following proceedings, he indicated he would not argue a directed verdict for Mohamed, but may argue other matters in submissions.
The case is due back in court Tuesday morning, when it will be decided what will happen next.
Hennessey, 33, Donahue, 24, Nippard, 26, and Mohamed, 28, face more than 100 charges in connection with four home invasions that happened within a week in February 2017, during which victims were reportedly tied up, assaulted and robbed.
Charges include break and enter, robbery, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, animal cruelty for shooting two dogs during the robberies, killing one, and breaching court orders.
The home invasions happened on Fourth Street in Mount Pearl on Feb. 3, Mount Royal Avenue in the capital city on Feb. 4, Milton Road in Paradise on Feb. 8 and Angels Road, also in Paradise, on Feb. 9.
Donahue is the only one of the four not in custody, having been granted bail months ago.
In the Fourth Street incident, a man living in the basement apartment testified that when he answered a knock on the door, three masked men came in and took two rings off his fingers, put a gun in his mouth and a pillow case over his head, and stole his PlayStation, controllers and about $700 in cash.
Two dogs were shot during the incident on Mount Royal Avenue. One of the dogs survived, but was badly injured. Police also discovered four zip-lock bags of cocaine and bags of marijuana inside backpacks that appeared to be ditched outside the home.
In the Milton Road home invasion, the homeowner testified he was in the shed with his father and friend when three masked men burst through the door. He said he was ordered to get on his knees, while the others were put face down on the floor. He was hit in the head with a .22-calibre, black pistol, near the crown of his skull. Blood poured down the side of his head.
After his father and friend were bound with zip ties on their wrists and black tape over their mouths, he was ordered to his feet to lead the masked men into the house.
Inside the house, the men also tied up the man’s girlfriend and his mother with zip-ties. The masked men got away with cash and jewelry.
On Angels Road, two masked men entered the home of a pregnant woman and robbed her at gunpoint while her 10-month-old daughter slept.
The men hauled the woman’s engagement ring from her finger and took her XBox. They also took the woman’s iPhone, and unknowingly dialled her fiancé’s number in the process. His friend answered and heard what was going on, and called the police.
Hennessey, Donahue, Nippard and Mohamed were arrested hours later.
Donahue and Mohamed were apprehended after police found a Mazda 3 stuck in a snowbank, engine still running, on nearby Dawe’s Road, and members of the K9 unit tracked two scents to a wooded area off the C.B.S. Highway. The men were located separately, both sitting under trees. Mohamed was wearing one boot.
Hennessey and Nippard were apprehended after RNC officers stopped their vehicle on Buckingham Drive, about a block from Hunter’s home.
The body of a fifth suspect, Mohamed Salim, was located a month later behind a dump truck in a quarry off the Trans-Canada Highway. He is believed to have frozen to death while hiding from police.
The judge spent most of Monday’s proceedings rendering his decision on a Charter of Rights application, filed by Hogan. The judge ruled that while a text message a police officer found on Hennessey’s phone during a pat-down could not be used as evidence in trial, the screen shot of the phone number could.
However, the Crown opted not to pursue it, since it served little purpose in linking the suspects.