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Judge admonishes man who threatened to blow up St. John's hospital

Provincial Court, Atlantic Place, St. John's.  — Telegram file
Provincial Court, Atlantic Place, St. John's. — Telegram file

'It's difficult to imagine a worse place to shut down,' Judge Mike Madden says, sentencing Michael Stacey to jail time

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Of the eight charges for which Michael Stacey was sentenced this week, threatening to blow up the emergency department of the Health Sciences Centre was clearly the most serious.

Stacey, 42, entered the department one afternoon last December and told a staff member he wanted to speak to members of the media. If reporters weren't there in 30 minutes, he said, he'd start detonating bombs he was carrying.

Stacey wasn't carrying any explosives, nor did he have access to any that day. Staff and emergency responders had no way of knowing this, however, and the emergency room was shut down, with patients turned away until Stacey was escorted from the premises in handcuffs.

"From the public's point of view, it's difficult to imagine a worse place to shut down," provincial court Judge Mike Madden said Tuesday. "Those in need of immediate care go to that place for help, and sometimes time is of the essence."

Madden sentenced Stacey to six months in prison for the threat, noting the seriousness of the crime but the lack of actual explosives. He also ordered Stacey to spend another 45 days in jail for threatening six RNC officers who attended the scene. Stacey had pointed a finger at them individually, telling the officers one by one that he was going to kill them.

Some of the officers had testified at trial that they believed Stacey had uttered the threats as a way to ensure he'd be arrested.

"They can't know that for certain," Madden said. "They can't get inside Mr. Stacey's head, but those comments are indicative of the manner in which the threats were made and how they were received by police."

Once at the lockup, Stacey asked to phone his lawyer. When he was taken out of a cell, he used his fist - which was in a cast - to strike a correctional officer in the face, knocking him down.

Madden called the assault a sucker punch, though he acknowledged Stacey had left the officer alone once he had knocked him down. The judge pointed to video that showed the officer had not exhibited any physical behaviour to warrant Stacey's aggression, and sentenced Stacey to 90 days in prison for the assault.

"Mr. Stacey took advantage of a trip to the telephone to attack a guard, and that behaviour is inexcusable. Correctional officers can expect the courts to discourage that sort of behaviour in inmates."

In total, Madden gave Stacey a jail term of about 10 1/2 months for the crimes he committed Dec. 19. With enhanced credit given him for the time he has spent in custody awaiting trial, Stacey has just over three months left to serve.

Stacey told the court at his sentencing hearing last week he has no memory of the day in question, since he was in a state of substance-induced psychosis at the time. A report prepared by a forensic psychiatrist who assessed Stacey after his arrest corroborated that possibility, Madden said, though it noted Stacey has a history of other mental health conditions.

"No doubt substance-induced psychosis played a role, but as Mr. Stacey himself admits, that's not an excuse, merely an explanation for his behaviour," the judge said.

Madden didn't buy Stacey's assertion that the events of Dec. 19 were "out of character" for him.

"Given the number of years that substance abuse has been an issue with Mr. Stacey, his issue with drugs is not a mitigating factor," Madden said.

He pointed out that while Stacey had no criminal convictions between 2015 and 2018, his criminal record, which consists of 17 pages of convictions, includes similar offences.

In addition to jail time, Madden handed Stacey a two-year probation period, ordering him to participate in counselling, particularly for issues related to anger management, substance abuse and other mental health issues.

"That's the only way we're going to keep you from coming back here," the judge said.

Stacey is also banned from firearms for 10 years and must submit a DNA sample to be kept in a database.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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