Top News

Kurt Churchill’s trial for threatening police officer proceeds in St. John’s court without him

Kurt Churchill's lawyer, Robby Ash (foreground), and prosecutor Mike Murray proceeded with Churchill's trial Monday, even though Churchill was not present in the courtroom. The 43-year-old was convicted of threatening a police officer in March 2019.
Kurt Churchill's lawyer, Robby Ash (foreground), and prosecutor Mike Murray proceeded with Churchill's trial Monday, even though Churchill was not present in the courtroom. The 43-year-old was convicted of threatening a police officer in March 2019.

Churchill’s Craigmillar Avenue address was the scene of a homicide in July; police say investigation is ongoing

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Kurt Churchill’s brain was in neutral while his mouth was in high gear when he was picked up by police after an incident on George Street last year, a defence lawyer told the court Monday.

Lawyer Robby Ash asked provincial court Judge David Orr to accept “I’m going to put my f---ing boot in your head” was part of a drunken mouthing-off by Churchill to the RNC officer who arrested him, and not a threat.

Orr didn’t agree, convicting Churchill, 43, of a single count of uttering threats. Churchill waived his right to testify and wasn’t present for his own trial, the judge having allowed the trial to proceed without him.

RNC Const. Cody Dunphy testified he and Const. Cody Langmead, who was then a police cadet, were stationed in their patrol vehicle on George Street around 3 a.m. on March 24, 2019, when people waved them over to Martini Bar. Dunphy said Churchill, then unidentified to them, appeared to be causing trouble with another man, with bouncers attempting to get them to leave the premises.

Dunphy said he and another officer who responded to the scene escorted Churchill to the vehicle when it was clear he wasn’t settling down. Dunphy said he had made the decision to detain Churchill for public intoxication because he felt Churchill could be a danger to himself or someone else.

In the one-minute drive from George Street to the lockup, Churchill was belligerent and aggressive and refused to give his name, Dunphy and Langmead both testified. He kicked the barrier between the front and back seats and called the officers names.

“He made vague threats, like he would see me again and I would get my day,” Dunphy told the court.

He said he decided to charge Churchill with uttering threats after Churchill told him, “I’m going to put my f---ing boot in your head.”

In the lockup, Churchill’s aggression continued, the officers both said, to the point where correctional staff locked Churchill in a cell and completed his admission with him behind bars.

Ash submitted Churchill was too intoxicated, according to the way the officers described him, to form the intent to threaten anyone. Ash argued Churchill was mouthing off to Dunphy in a drunken and agitated state, with no intent to intimidate him, for no purpose and with no plan to follow through.

“It could be characterized as mere bravado,” Ash said, adding there was no evidence Churchill made the comment as a way to try to get the officer to release him.

Prosecutor Mike Murray said there was no evidence presented to determine how drunk Churchill had been, but pointed out he had been able to walk unassisted, spoke clearly and appeared, according to the testimony of one of the officers, to be refusing to answer questions as opposed to being too drunk to comprehend them.

“Drunken intent is still intent,” Murray said. “All the court has to decide is if the words were said and if they were meant to be taken seriously. On the totality of the evidence, I think that’s the case.”

Orr agreed and found Churchill guilty.

“It’s clear to me that Mr. Churchill’s behaviour was not so intoxicated as to be outside his control, it’s clear his words and actions were directed at all times, and it’s clear to me that the words that were spoken were an attempt to intimidate the officer,” Orr said.

Churchill is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23 and Ash has requested that he and his client both appear in the courtroom by video. Churchill is “in and out of the province,” Ash said, but didn’t disclose where. He did say Churchill would require a 14-day quarantine period if he were obligated to return to St. John’s for court.

Court documents indicate Churchill was released from the lockup last year with multiple conditions, including that he let police know if his address changed from 40 Craigmillar Ave. — that’s the address of the house outside which 47-year-old Jamie Cody was fatally shot in the early morning hours of July 5.

RNC officers responded to a report of shots fired in the neighbourhood and arrived to find Cody’s body on the street and his red Jeep Cherokee, the driver’s side door open, outside 40 Craigmillar Ave. Police secured the perimeter of the scene as well as the home and determined no one was inside.

Police have said they don’t believe the shooting was random and that Cody knew his killer. They told reporters at the time of the homicide they had identified suspects and put “precautionary measures” in place to ensure the public was not at risk, but had not made any arrests.

On Monday, RNC Const. James Cadigan told The Telegram the investigation is still active and the force has confidence in its investigators, who are carefully sifting through a high volume of information.

“With advancements in technology, science and evolving case law, our investigators remain steadfast in their ability to hone in on intricate detail,” Cadigan said in an email. “Our major case management teams recognize these complexities and will not rest until all available avenues of investigation have been tested.”

RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories