McDiarmid found guilty of assault on lawyer

A Dawson City man was found guilty of assaulting and threatening a lawyer and resisting a peace officer in Yukon Supreme Court Feb. 22. Justice David Gates sentenced Mark McDiarmid to 10 months in prison, but McDiarmid was released the same day because of credit for time served.

A Dawson City man was found guilty of assaulting and threatening a lawyer and resisting a peace officer in Yukon Supreme Court Feb. 22.

Justice David Gates sentenced Mark McDiarmid to 10 months in prison, but McDiarmid was released the same day because of credit for time served.

The charges relate to an incident at the Whitehorse courthouse in February 2014, when McDiarmid tried to attack lawyer Jennifer Cunningham.

McDiarmid was being held on attempted murder charges at the time, after he attacked RCMP officers in Dawson City with a splitting maul.

On Feb. 21, Cunningham and RCMP Cpl. Stephen Knaack testified about the incident.

Several videos from the court cellblock’s CCTV system also captured the incident.

At the time, Knaack was in charge of supervising the transport of inmates from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to the court.

He testified that Cunningham was in the cellblock of the Whitehorse courthouse to give McDiarmid some documents.

Cunningham wasn’t representing McDiarmid but had been appointed by Yukon Supreme Court to help the court because McDiarmid chose to represent himself.

After Cunningham gave him the documents, and as Knaack was closing the cell door, McDiarmid tried to attack Cunningham, Knaack said.

Knaack intercepted McDiarmid, eventually wrestling him to the ground with the help of another police officer.

Surveillance videos played in court show McDiarmid lunging at Cunningham with his right fist for no apparent reason.

Cunningham ducked and retreated into a hallway — but ended up with her back against a door that wouldn’t open.

Meanwhile Knaack and Const. Ben Kingdon immobilized McDiarmid and handcuffed him, metres away from Cunningham.

“I’m gonna get you, Jenny,” Knaack testified McDiarmid said in a calm voice as he was being restrained.

Cunningham told the court she remembers McDiarmid saying something to her but couldn’t remember his exact words.

It wasn’t friendly, she said.

McDiarmid was also charged with assault of a peace officer, intimidating a justice system participant and attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

But the judge found him not guilty on those counts. He said there was “no evidence that Mr. McDiarmid attempted to assault Cpl. Knaack,” and that he was only trying to reach Cunningham.

Gates was also not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that McDiarmid was trying to intimidate Cunningham or to obstruct the course of justice.

McDiarmid refused to participate in his trial, arguing the court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case.

He was originally supposed to get a jury trial but because he missed the first day of that trial in October 2016, and couldn’t justify his absence, Gates ruled he would get a judge-only trial.

McDiarmid disagreed with Gates’s ruling, eventually getting kicked out of court for disrupting the proceedings. He refused to come back to the courtroom.

Because McDiarmid chose to represent himself and wasn’t present in the courtroom to cross-examine witnesses, Gates told the court it was incumbent on him to question the witnesses thoroughly.

Knaack told the judge his relationship with McDiarmid was professional and civil. He knew McDiarmid back when he was posted in Dawson City. Knaack also told the court Cunningham had visited McDiarmid many times without incident.

Nothing about McDiarmid’s attitude that day led him to think McDiarmid was about to do what he did, Knaack said.

After reading his decision Feb. 22, Gates heard from McDiarmid’s mother and sister in the gallery. His sister said McDiarmid “just wants to go back to living his life” at his woodlot outside Dawson City. Both said he rarely goes into town and that he doesn’t like being in Whitehorse.

The judge then asked for McDiarmid to come up to the courtroom and addressed him directly.

“You’re very lucky to have (your mother and sister) in your life,” Gates said. “You’re a very smart man and you have all sorts of skills to lead a happy, peaceful, successful life.… You just need to be respectful of other people.”

McDiarmid had conciliatory words in return.

“I hope you have a good life and continue being calm with people that are self-representing,” he said.

Crown prosecutor David McWhinnie had asked for a longer sentence to send a message to people to “keep your hands off defence lawyers.” He also asked the judge to consider whether to place McDiarmid on probation, but Gates decided that McDiarmid is very resistant to supervision, and putting him on probation would be “setting him up for further involvement in the criminal justice system.”

He did issue an order requiring McDiarmid to stay away from Cunningham for one year.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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