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Trial begins in St. John's for man charged with assaulting his cousin with a key

- SaltWire File Photo

Stephen Piercey, 48, is representing himself in court

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A man who was allegedly assaulted by his cousin with a key last fall had one word to describe their relationship when he was asked in court Tuesday: toxic.

"I've always been living in fear," the man testified in provincial court in St. John's about his cousin, 48-year-old Stephen Piercey.

Piercey has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault with a weapon and causing a disturbance in relation to an incident said to have happened on Willow Drive in Paradise last fall, and is representing himself at trial.

The complainant told the court he had been walking his dog when he heard a vehicle pull up and saw his cousin coming toward him, swearing and yelling "something about disrespect."

The man said he had started to back up and had pulled on his dog's leash as Piercey came toward him. Piercey took an aggressive stance, he said, fists up and holding a key between the fingers of his right hand with the pointed end out.

When Crown prosecutor Mike Murray asked the man to use a pen to demonstrate to the court how Piercey had allegedly held the key, Piercey offered a car key on his keychain for the man to use instead. It was declined.

The man said Piercey had made two swipes at him with the key, causing him to fall to a crouching position, since he was tangled in his dog's leash. Piercey hadn't made contact with the first swipe, the man said, but had with the second, leaving two scratches on the right side of the man's head and neck. Piercey had also approached the dog, the man said, but didn't strike it.

"Did you try and defend yourself?" Murray asked.

"No, I never swiped back. I just folded, trying to protect my dog and my face," the complainant replied.

Piercey then backed off, still swearing, and got into his SUV and drove away, the man said. At that point, a teenage boy living on the street came out of his house and said he had seen the whole thing.

The teenager also testified in court, telling a similar version of events. He identified Piercey in the courtroom as the man he had seen swipe twice at another person with something shiny in his hand, and acknowledged he had taken a photo of that man as he had gotten back into his SUV. The photo was presented to the court.

Piercey had then driven back around the street three times, his cousin testified, swerving the wheel of his vehicle as if he was going to come near him. The man said he had called police and had waited on the street until an officer arrived.

That officer also testified, saying he had arrested Piercey at his home the same day, charging him and giving him a court date.

The forensic identification officer who had taken photos of the victim's injuries also testified.

Piercey's cross-examination of the RNC officers was brief. His questions for the teenager pertained mostly to how well he had been able to see and hear the incident from the front step of his house.

Piercey's cross-examination of his cousin, however, grew heated.

"What were you wearing?" was one of the first questions Piercey posed to his cousin. "Was your hood down or up?"

"It was down," the man replied.

"No, it was up. I didn't know who you were at first," Piercey countered. "Do you remember saying you were going to f---ing kill me? Do you remember saying 'Ha ha, you're going to jail?'"

"No, I don't," his cousin answered.

"Well, I think you're lying, but anyway," Piercey said.

Piercey focused much of his questioning on the fact that he normally holds his keys in his right hand, and his cousin's injuries were on the right side of his head. He told Judge Colin Flynn he didn't see how it was possible for him to have caused the injuries the way he's alleged to have, in those circumstances.

"Why didn't you just keep going?" Piercey asked his cousin.

"I tried, but you came at me with your fists clenched. How could I walk away from that? You were ready to stab me with your key, that's what I was afraid of," the man replied.

Piercey then asked the man if he could recall a number of prior instances when he or another family member had threatened Piercey in public, including in a gas station in 2016 and in a McDonald's restaurant.

"You were never threatened by me, Stephen," the man replied. "It's just made up stories."

Piercey told the judge he had received injuries in at least one of the incidents.

"He's saying it was a random attack and he doesn't know why I attacked him," Piercey said, explaining to the judge the relevance of his questioning about the alleged prior events.

Flynn postponed the trial until August to allow Piercey time to try to obtain surveillance video from the gas station and restaurant so it can be presented as evidence, though he acknowledged it's likely the video is long gone if the incidents hadn't been reported to police.

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