After being behind bars for nearly three years, Michael Nehass pleaded guilty yesterday to some of the charges against him.
But he didn’t agree to any of the details surrounding the crimes and likely won’t be getting out jail any time soon.
In an unconventional hearing Thursday, the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to some of the territorial court charges he’s accumulated in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
In total he entered guilty pleas to five charges from 2013 and 2014: attempting to break out of the jail, two counts of mischief, one count of uttering threats and one count of assaulting a police officer.
At the same time he was vocal about disagreeing with many of the alleged facts the Crown tried to read into court.
Usually, a person who pleads guilty to a crime consents to an agreed statement of facts prior to coming to court. Those facts are usually read into the record when guilty pleas are entered.
In this case, no such facts were agreed to. The court heard that Nehass refused to see his lawyer Bibhas Vaze the day before the hearing.
Visiting judge Donald Luther allowed Nehass to plead guilty to what would be considered the “bare minimum” of the charges.
A separate hearing will be scheduled before Nehass is sentenced so the court can hear specifics about what happened at the time of the crimes.
In court, Nehass was insistent that he wants to get out of the WCC. “I don’t want to be here any longer,” he told the judge.
Nehass is facing additional counts of assaulting a peace officer and uttering threats. Those are connected to an incident earlier this year when Nehass was brought naked to a video appearance in front of a judge, his lawyer said.
That incident led to a human rights complaint filed by Nehass’s father on his behalf.
Vaze said those charges could constitute a possible abuse of process and he would not recommend that his client plead guilty to those. In the end, Nehass did not enter pleas to those charges.
Vaze said there were important facts about Nehass’s conditions of confinement that need to be public. So far he hasn’t received the information he needs from the jail, he said.
As part of the human rights complaint, filed in May, Nehass’s father said his son has been held in solitary confinement for 28 months. The Department of Justice denied that claim.
At the time a spokesperson said the longest anyone has been in segregation over the course of the past year is seven months.
The longest uninterrupted stretch in solitary that anyone has served is just shy of four months, officials said.
Requests to the department for updated statistics were not returned in time for today’s paper.
The United Nations has suggested that no one be held in segregation for longer than 15 days.
Even if the territorial court matters are dealt with, Nehass is still facing the Supreme Court charges that landed him in jail in the first place. Those took place in Watson Lake and include a charge of unlawful confinement.
Vaze told the judge the plan is to get the earliest possible trial date for those.
Nehass’s mental health has received a lot of public attention. In July, a Yukon territorial court judge found him unfit to stand trial. At the time, the judge ruled Nehass’s belief that a government conspiracy is keeping him behind bars overwhelmed his ability to participate in the process.
The Yukon Review Board later reversed that decision. It ruled Nehass understood the process, understood the possible consequences and could communicate with his lawyer – all the pillars for the legal definition of fitness.
“Although he appears to suffer from a mental disorder, and is often excitable, confrontational, argumentative and sometimes obstructive – particularly when he does not get his way or believes that things are not going his way – Mr. Nehass was observed to respond coherently to everything occurring throughout the proceedings,” the review board said in its decision.
Before the hearing ended yesterday, Nehass requested five minutes to speak in front of the judge.
In those five minutes he passionately argued that high ranking officials, in the Justice Department and the jail, were treating him inhumanely because of the things he was trying to expose.
Lawyers will be back in court next Friday to set a date for the next hearing.
Contact Ashley Joannou at