Leo Crockwell found guilty in Bay Bulls standoff

Leo Crockwell was found guilty Friday of five charges laid after a controversial weeklong standoff with RCMP in Bay Bulls, a small community just south of St. John's.

Showed no reaction as he was led from court; faces at least a 5-year sentence

A jury has found Leo Crockwell guilty of five of the six charges that they were asked to consider. CBC

Leo Crockwell was found guilty Friday of five charges laid after a controversial weeklong standoff with RCMP in Bay Bulls, a small community just south of St. John's.

The jury of seven women and four men found Crockwell not guilty of uttering a threat, but guilty of five other charges, including assaulting his sister with a weapon. 

RCMP had surrounded Leo Crockwell's mother's house in December 2010, in what turned out to be a weeklong standoff. (CBC )

He was also found guilty of mischief and three weapons-related offences connected to shots he fired from a family home in Bay Bulls.

Crockwell, who showed no reaction as he left court Friday, faces a minimum sentence of five years.

Crockwell represented himself at Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, saying the RCMP used "excessive force" during a December 2010 standoff that dragged on for a week, and ended when he escaped — undetected by police — through a window.

The circumstances of Crockwell's escape attracted national media attention, and even made him something of a local folk hero. The Mounties, who had been flooding Crockwell's mother's home with water cannons, withdrew some officers from the cordon that had circled the home.

After shimmying through a window, Crockwell simply walked away from the scene. He was arrested the next day at a relative's home on the outskirts of St. John's, where another police force — the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary — located him.

RCMP at first did not acknowledge that Crockwell had escaped, fuelling public interest in Crockwell's story.

Crockwell had initially been charged with attempted murder because of the shots he fired at police, although those charges were dropped last year.

Mother, sister fled home in fear

During the trial, the jury was told of how Crockwell's family members were anxious about his behaviour and their own safety, and how his mother and sister fled the home in fear. His mother, Margaret Crockwell, had slept the previous night in her clothes, so concerned was she about what he might do.

Before barricading himself in the house, Crockwell had chased his sister, Catherine, outside the home, shoving her to the floor of a patio and then putting the end of a firearm to her neck. He also kicked her several times around her head and face.

The jury began deliberations Thursday, following a lengthy charge by Justice Richard LeBlanc.

On Tuesday, LeBlanc found Crockwell not guilty of possessing a firearm without a licence and not guilty of assault, although he did not tell the jury the reasons for his decision.

Crockwell went through 3 lawyers

Crockwell had insisted on representing himself at the trial, going through no less than three lawyers since his arrest in 2010. It was never revealed why he and each of the lawyers parted ways.

Crockwell fired the third lawyer just as the trial opened. To ensure a fair trial, LeBlanc appointed prominent St. John's defence lawyer Randy Piercey to serve as a friend of the court, in effect watching the trial on Crockwell's behalf.

Crockwell did not call evidence of his own, but did speak to the jury this week during summations. He acknowledged during those remarks that he would not recommend that others represent themselves.

Crockwell had said his actions during the standoff were informed by his experience in 1998, when he was illegally detained for four months at a St. John's psychiatric hospital. Crockwell had successfully gone to court over that incident, and remained suspicious of police.

Crockwell's mental health was a subtext of the proceedings. Family members testified that Crockwell had imagined that his sister was harbouring a man upstairs, and when the first RCMP officers arrived, they were told that Crockwell was delusional and believed German soldiers were outside the home.

Crockwell, however, is not known to have been diagnosed with a specific mental illness, and the 1998 dispute was anchored in his belief that he did not need medical treatment.

With files from Glenn Payette