Judge apologizes to Michael Nehass

A Yukon Supreme Court Justice has apologized to a Whitehorse inmate who was naked during a video appearance in court earlier this year.

A Yukon Supreme Court Justice has apologized to a Whitehorse inmate who was naked during a video appearance in court earlier this year.

Justice Leigh Gower says he should have had Michael Nehass removed from the room as soon as he realized he was naked, according to a letter from the Canadian Judicial Council.

“I sincerely apologize to Mr. Nehass for the embarrassment I caused him by not acting to improve the situation sooner,” Gower is quoted as saying in the letter signed by the council’s executive director.

According to the Nov. 18 letter obtained by the News, Nehass’s father claimed his son was subject to “inhumane and degrading public exposure.”

The complaint led to a review by Robert Pidgeon, the vice-chairman of the council’s judicial conduct committee.

What happened is also the subject of a human rights complaint that has received national attention.

On January 22, 2014 Nehass was scheduled to appear in court via video. According to the letter, he refused.

Gower has said he was concerned about delays in Nehass’s case and knew that his fitness to stand trial may be an issue.

“Justice Gower therefore requested the presence of the director of legal aid in the hope that some arrangement could be made to provide counsel for Mr. Nehass,” the letter states.

“Justice Gower felt a further non-appearance would result in more delays and would do nothing to advance the prospect of resolving Mr. Nehass’s situation. Justice Gower requested that Mr. Nehass be brought to the video conference room.”

The hearing began at 10 a.m.

Nehass was pinned to the ground and the guards were in riot gear, according to a transcript filed with the human rights complaint.

When Nehass first arrived he was incomprehensible, and the judge was unaware of why he was being restrained, the letter says.

Nehass asked to sit and talk with the judge, but said he couldn’t “with my face twisted into the fucking floor,” according to the transcript.

Gower said that if the guards were comfortable with the idea, Nehass could be brought to a standing position.

“I’m naked; how can I stand up with my naked body in front of a camera? I want to be sitting up in a chair so I can address the court fucking simply,” Nehass said, according to the transcript.

Eventually it appears he was seated.

From 10:09 to 10:16, Nehass was visible on the screen naked from the waist up. He was never visible below the waist, the letter says.

“It was when Mr. Nehass sat that Justice Gower had confirmation that he was naked, at least from the torso up,” the letter says.

“Once sitting Mr. Nehass became quite vocal and sometimes difficult to comprehend. Justice Gower tried to engage into a conversation but failed and he ordered Mr. Nehass’s removal and the end of the video link,” the letter says.

Pidgeon believes Gower “acted in good faith with the intent to advance the matter and avoid delays that might be detrimental to Mr. Nehass.”

It was not an ideal situation, the letter says. The judge didn’t have visual contact with Nehass immediately and had difficulties understanding him.

Pidgeon is satisfied Gower learned from the experience, the letter says. The file was closed.

The Canadian Judicial Council is responsible for investigating whether a recommendation should be made to the minister of justice that a judge be removed from office.

That could be in situations where a judge can no longer perform their duties for reasons including misconduct, old age or infirmity.

Meanwhile, Nehass remains in jail. He has been there for nearly three years.

The human rights complaint filed in May alleges he has been kept in solitary confinement for 28 months, though the Yukon Department of Justice denies that.

In recent court appearances Nehass has appeared alarmingly thin. He continues to insist that his incarceration is part of a grand government conspiracy.

In November, he pleaded guilty to five territorial court charges he has accumulated while in jail, though he said he did not agree with the Crown’s version of events.

He still faces Supreme Court charges. He has said he plans to fight those at trial.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read