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Nehass case creeps forward

Michael Nehass still hasn't been sentenced for a crime that landed him in jail nearly four years ago. Lawyers have begun the early stages of arguing what that sentence should be. But any conclusion still seems a long way off.

Michael Nehass still hasn’t been sentenced for a crime that landed him in jail nearly four years ago.

Lawyers have begun the early stages of arguing what that sentence should be. But any conclusion still seems a long way off.

Thursday was day one of a two-day hearing into whether the court should order a psychiatric assessment of the 31-year-old. That’s to see if he could be labelled either a dangerous offender or a long-term offender.

Both of those designations would impact Nehass’s sentence. A long-term offender can get up to 10 years probation after he or she is released. A dangerous offender could be locked up indefinitely.

But this week’s arguments aren’t even about whether Nehass deserves either of those labels. They’re just about whether the assessment should be ordered.

If Supreme Court Justice Scott Brooker does what the Crown wants and orders Nehass assessed, it will take three months to be completed, the court heard. Then, if the Crown decides to go forward with a dangerous or long-term offender application, there will be more arguments.

Some time between now and the final sentence, Nehass’s new lawyer also plans to make an application that his Charter rights have been violated during his time behind bars.

That hasn’t been scheduled yet and could take more than two weeks to argue, the court heard.

Nehass was convicted by a jury in May of forcible confinement, aggravated assault and breaching his probation after attacking a woman in Watson Lake in December 2011. He plans to appeal.

He represented himself during the trial. But earlier this year he applied to have the government cover the costs for his lawyer during this part of the case.

B.C. lawyer Sarah Rauch said she needs more time and more information to wrap her head around everything that has happened over the last four years.

She also suggested that the Charter application over Nehass’s treatment should be heard before any assessment is done.

She is expected to make most of her arguments against the assessment today.

Nehass made headlines around the country in 2014 when he was ordered to a video court appearance. Guards brought him in shackled and naked.

His father has also filed a human rights complaint on his behalf over the length of time he has spent in some form of segregation.

Earlier this year Nehass was sentenced for crimes he committed while in custody at the Whitehorse jail.

That includes assaulting a corrections officer by spitting on him, attempting to break out of the segregation unit and doing more than $35,000 worth of damage.

Assuming the situation has not changed since then, Nehass has not been part of the jail’s general population since May 2013.

According to prosecutor Eric Marcoux, arguing over whether or not Nehass should be assessed is not necessary.

In Canada, if someone has already been convicted twice of a serious crime that landed them in prison for two years or more, they are presumed to get assessed when they’re convicted a third time.

This latest sentence would be Nehass’s third to qualify under the rule, Marcoux said.

He’s been convicted of aggravated assault twice before now: once in 2003 when he was sentenced to 33 months and once in 2010 when, Marcoux says, he was sentenced to three years.

But the two sides can’t even agree on Nehass’s record.

The printout of Nehass’s criminal record originally said the 2010 sentence was only two years less a day.

Marcoux says that was a mistake. Nehass was originally sentenced to three years but was given a year’s worth of credit for time served.

The record was amended to say three years.

Rauch said changes like that mean she has concerns about the accuracy of the document. That will likely be argued in court today. So will the issue of who gets to do the assessment if it is ordered.

At one point it seemed like a solution had been found. Rauch told the court Nehass was willing to get the assessment done if a B.C. psychologist he chose was the one who did it.

Marcoux said he couldn’t agree to that particular psychologist.

The hearing continues this morning.

Contact Ashley Joannou at