New Brunswick

Crown wraps case after 7 officers testify about pair accused of violating pandemic rules

Seven RCMP officers testified on the first day of the trial of two Bathurst residents accused of violating New Brunswick's pandemic restrictions at what several officers described as an anti-mask protest last year in Moncton.

Pair accused of violating Emergency Measures Act on several occasions to stand trial

Britney Green, holding a phone, and Nicholas DeAngelis, as he was being taken into custody by RCMP on Jan. 24, 2021, outside Moncton city hall. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

Seven RCMP officers testified on the first day of the trial of two Bathurst residents accused of violating New Brunswick's pandemic restrictions at what several officers described as an anti-mask protest last year in Moncton.

Britney Lee Green and Nicholas DeAngelis are accused of violating the Emergency Measures Act by taking part in a gathering of more than five people while not wearing masks and not physically distanced on Jan. 24, 2021 outside Moncton city hall.

They were among five people arrested and charged. Two others have pleaded guilty, and a trial will continue Wednesday for another person.

The trial began Tuesday for the pair who are represented themselves after previously firing their lawyers. Most of the morning was spent on procedural issues, including their request to summon a Crown prosecutor and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, to testify. 

Provincial court Judge Brigitte Volpé closed the courtroom and heard arguments about the request to summon them without members of the public or media present. When the courtroom reopened, it was unclear what the judge had decided. 

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, at a news conference in Moncton on March 2, 2022. Accused couple have requested to summon Russell and a Crown prosecutor to testify. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Staff Sgt. David MacDonnell was overseeing the police response to the protest that occurred in one of the most restrictive phases of pandemic rules.

MacDonnell said he was parked near Downing Street when he saw Green, DeAngelis and David West approaching the protest. The officer said he recognized them from policing previous protests that occurred weekly in Moncton at the time.

He warned them about the gathering and the restrictions in place. 

"At that point it became a yelling match," MacDonnell said."They were upset with the emergency order that was in place." He said he warned them they could be arrested. 

Arrested moments after arrival

RCMP Sgt. Christopher Mackenzie-Plante testified he arrested DeAngelis only a "couple moments" after DeAngelis arrived at the protest.

Under cross-examination by Green, Mackenzie-Plante was at times evasive when asked about how far apart she and DeAngelis were from others and how long they were beside each other. Green asked how the officer knew they were closer to others than allowed. The officer said he could tell visually. 

"I did not have a ruler with me," Mackenzie-Plante said.

Another officer testified about recording drone video and photos of the protest. Photos were entered as an exhibit.

Const. Karianne Lambert testified she assisted in the arrests of both, reading them their rights. When DeAngelis was asked if he understood why he was being arrested, she said he responded that he didn't. 

"He said no, he didn't do anything wrong, that it was a peaceful demonstration," the officer testified. 

The trial began Tuesday in a provincial courtroom in Moncton similar to this one. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Const. Kamil Kalbarczyk testified he assisted in arresting Green, who wasn't wearing a mask. He said he was familiar with her from other cases. He said Green said she had a mask exemption, but said it was from Ontario.

"It wasn't from New Brunswick," Kalbarczyk said.

Questions for the various RCMP officers who testified focused on whether the event was a protest or a gathering, why others present weren't arrested, and whether the pair and a third person were specifically targeted for arrest that day.

Prosecutor Logan Landry closed the Crown's case after the officers testified. The case continues May 25, when Green and DeAngelis can present their case.

The morning had several contentious moments, with the judge issuing several warnings to Green and supporters in the gallery about trial procedure and rules of court. 

Volpé warned those in the gallery supporting the couple about their gestures and reactions to her comments she found distracting. 

"This is not a theatre," Volpé said. 

Defendants call judge biased over mask rule

The judge also initially required supporters in the gallery to wear masks, which prompted Green to demand the judge recuse herself. 

"You're biased, I'm going to need a different judge," Green said. 

Volpé didn't recuse herself. The judge said they have the right to appeal. Green said they would appeal.

DeAngelis then asked those in the courtroom whether anyone is claiming him as their property and whether they have a "contract" with him. It was unclear what the questions had to do with the trial. The judge said he would need to address questions to her. 

"This is not some sort of group session," Volpé said.

Requests denied

Earlier, the judge dismissed most of the pair's 13 requests for how the trial should run since the requests don't comply with provincial law or court rules. One request was for a jury to hear the case, which isn't possible for provincial offences. 

The judge repeatedly told the pair and those in the gallery supporting them that under court rules they cannot record or broadcast the case. 

Among their other demands was that a Crown prosecutor be fired if they get convicted and the conviction is later overturned.