Nehass’s fitness for trial remains up in the air

After spending nearly three years in custody waiting for his cases to be handled, Michael Nehass is pleading with the court to come to some sort of conclusion.

After spending nearly three years in custody waiting for his cases to be handled, Michael Nehass is pleading with the court to come to some sort of conclusion.

“I just want to plead guilty to the territorial court matters,” he told a judge Friday, later adding, “I just want to get out of jail.”

The 30-year-old, whose mental health and treatment in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre have been the focus of much public attention, made an appearance in court Friday.

The Crown says Nehass needs to have his mental fitness assessed by a court for a second time.

Territorial judge Michael Cozens found Nehass mentally unfit to stand trial last May.

The Yukon Review Board found him fit a few months later.

But according to prosecutor Leo Lane, the finding of the review board does not replace a judge’s order. It simply sends things back to court. Then it’s up to a judge to rule on Nehass’s mental health again.

At this point the only verdict that stands is the one of “unfit,” Lane told judge Donald Luther. Until a judge says that Nehass is fit, no guilty pleas should be entered.

Nehass is facing a growing pile of charges in both territorial and Supreme Court. Some are from Watson Lake and others have accumulated while he’s been in custody. They include multiple counts of assaulting a peace officer and uttering threats.

On Friday more charges were added: two counts of uttering threats while in jail and one count for threatening to burn down the Masonic Hall in Whitehorse. Those charges date back to June.

Nehass is adamant that deep-rooted corruption is all around him. He believes his criminal proceedings are an effort to keep him from revealing the truth.

“The whole YTG government is dirty,” he told Luther, a visiting judge from Newfoundland.

At past court appearances he has accused jail staff of forcibly sterilizing him.

“Mr. Nehass is passionate in his beliefs about the roles of certain individuals, entities and governments. These beliefs, however, simply overwhelm his ability to participate in the criminal law process in a meaningful way,” Cozens said in his original decision.

Earlier this year, Nehass was brought naked to a video court appearance shackled and pinned to the floor by jail guards in full riot gear.

His father has since filed a human rights complaint, alleging that his son has been kept in solitary confinement for 28 months.

The Department of Justice denies that claim.

Nehass’s court-appointed lawyer Bibhas Vaze originally appeared Friday to ask the judge to remove him from the case.

He said he was not able to receive instructions from his client. Vaze noted that Nehass had “fired” him on more than one occasion.

When a clearly frustrated Nehass said he wanted to plead guilty, Vaze agreed to stay on. He warned Nehass that this was his last chance or Vaze would leave for good.

The judge agreed. Luther told Nehass that his ability to communicate with his lawyer would go a long way in proving he was mentally fit.

Both sides will be back in court at the end of the week to set a date for the next hearing. So far no guilty pleas have been officially entered.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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