New Brunswick

Bathurst couple charged after pandemic protest fire their lawyers

A Bathurst couple facing allegations they violated pandemic restrictions fired their lawyers, and a judge temporarily detained a person claiming to represent them after arguing with the judge Wednesday morning in Moncton.

Judge briefly detained person claiming to have power of attorney for Nicholas DeAngelis and Britney Green

Britney Green, left, and Nicholas DeAngelis, as the latter was taken into custody by RCMP on last Jan. 24 outside Moncton city hall. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

A Bathurst couple facing allegations they violated pandemic restrictions have fired their lawyers, and a judge temporarily detained a person claiming to represent them after arguing with that judge on Wednesday morning in Moncton.

Nicholas DeAngelis and Britney Green were arrested and charged following a protest against COVID-19 restrictions held outside Moncton city hall on Jan. 24. 

It was alleged they attended an outdoor gathering of more than five people while not wearing a mask, contrary to rules in place at that time to limit the spread of COVID-19. They face other charges related to incidents on Dec. 31, 2020.

DeAngelis, 34, and Green, 32, were scheduled to appear in person in Moncton provincial court before Judge Luc Labonté on Wednesday morning. Trial dates were to be set for the charges related to the Dec. 31 charges, but the couple did not show up.

Lawyers 'terminated'

Alex Pate, a lawyer who represented them on the January charges that were already scheduled for trial, appeared and asked to be removed from the file. Ontario-based paralegal Christopher Walpole appeared on behalf of lawyer Mohamed Rashidy. Walpole asked the judge for them to be removed on the other charges.

"We received word that we are terminated as their legal representatives," Walpole told the judge by phone, saying he received that notice Tuesday afternoon.

On Oct. 20, Walpole told the court he expected the couple would plead guilty to a violation of the Emergency Measures Act and their criminal charges would then be withdrawn by Crown prosecutors.

Green and DeAngelis were also not present for that October appearance. Judge Paul Duffie told the court that day that they were denied entry to the courthouse because they wouldn't wear a face mask required to enter the building.

DeAngelis and Green were scheduled to appear in person in a Moncton provincial courtroom like this one on Wednesday, but neither was present. (Shane Magee/CBC)

After Walpole spoke, two people entered the courtroom and told the judge they have power of attorney for the couple. However, the judge said power of attorney isn't sufficient to represent people in provincial court if they aren't lawyers.

"Your power of attorney is useless and meaningless in this court," Labonté said, asking the two if they are lawyers.

"What court is this?" one of the two, who later said their name is Ivan Finton, repeatedly asked the judge. Finton said they aren't lawyers and don't need to be.

The judge asked if they were there to accept a trial date for the two, but Finton didn't answer and instead asked if Crown prosecutor Nicholas Comeau was present. Comeau wasn't, but another Crown was there. Finton said they were only authorized to deal with Comeau.

"Well good day," Labonté said. "Warrants of arrest will be issued for your friends, or whoever they are."

Finton questioned why, with the judge saying it was because they weren't present for their court appearance and didn't have a lawyer there representing them. Finton again started to question the judge. 

Temporarily held

"No, we're done, I'm not fooling around," Labonté said.

"Neither am I," Finton said, getting into a back and forth with the judge about whether the warrants would be issued in "equity."

The judge said Finton was in contempt of court. Sheriffs led Finton from the court to holding cells in the courthouse. The second person who appeared on the couple's behalf remained seated in the public gallery, taking notes.

After about an hour, Finton was brought back into court in handcuffs and sat in the prisoner's box.

"It's clear you don't have any respect for this court," Labonté said. "Your questioning of my authority borders on contempt, but I've decided I'm not going to have a contempt hearing, and I will release you."

The judge said if trial dates could be set for Green and DeAngelis, he would not issue arrest warrants. The judge then set a trial for charges related to the December 2020 charges for Jan. 9, 2023.

Green and DeAngelis will be tried in May 2022 on the charges related to the January 2021 protest outside city hall.