A judge has fined a New Glasgow man and banned him for driving for 15 months for breaking into a woman’s apartment, violating a court-ordered curfew and driving with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.
“The sentencing-range issue looms large in this case,” Pictou provincial court Judge Del Atwood said in a written decision released Friday.
“The prosecution seeks a federal penitentiary term of three years; defence counsel seeks probation and fines. The difference spans quite a range, indeed.”
The penalty might have been harsher for Donald Joseph Mac-Donald if police had been quicker getting the 61-year-old retired builder in front of a justice after he was arrested.
“The prosecution conceded that Mr. MacDonald had been detained unconstitutionally by police following his arrest for the break-in,” Atwood said.
MacDonald was held in custody for about 16 hours before police got him in front of a justice, violating his charter rights, Atwood said.
“The prosecution acknowledged as well that Mr. MacDonald was entitled to a reduction in his sentence as an appropriate and just remedy,” said the judge, who gave his sentence orally in the spring.
“Stated briefly, police failed to bring Mr. MacDonald before a justice without unreasonable delay.”
The officers who arrested him “believed mistakenly that they could wait around for up to a day, unaware, it seems” that the Criminal Code section on arrests “has been interpreted consistently for over two decades as setting an absolute outer 24-hour limit for lawful detention, but making it mandatory to bring a detainee before a judicial officer earlier than that if practicable,” Atwood said.
“Without unreasonable delay” is not a difficult concept to grasp, said the judge.
MacDonald pleaded guilty to the bizarre Jan. 11, 2017, break-in where, “impaired by the disinhibiting effects of alcohol,” he forced his way into a woman’s apartment in New Gasgow when she wasn’t home.
“The victim did not know Mr. MacDonald,” Atwood said. “What was found by the victim’s son when he arrived at the apartment was alarming to him, as it would have been to anyone finding a stranger in the home of one’s parent. Remarkably, Mr. MacDonald was partly undressed, and was surprised to see someone other than the victim.”
When the woman who lived in the apartment arrived she found the place in an “unsettling disarray,” the judge said.
“Pink panties from the bedroom were moved to the kitchen table. A makeup bag in the bathroom was moved and mascara was taken from the bag. A tube of mascara from the victim’s makeup bag in the bathroom was located on the kitchen counter with a note made with the mascara. The note was indiscernible.”
Oddly, a pair of knitted blue slippers that didn’t belong to the woman was found under her dresser in the bathroom.
“A silver chain clasping a religious pendant was found hanging on a mirror in the living room. Police found Mr. MacDonald’s DNA profile on it,” said the judge.
“Pictures in the living room were moved. The victim’s shower curtain was drawn open. Towels that the victim had left hanging on a rack were moved, but appeared dry. The victim’s bedding was re-arranged, blankets were bunched up and in significant disarray. Her bed was very messy.”
The woman’s scented candles appeared to have been lit in front of her refrigerator and kitchen counter, Atwood said. “The victim found residue puddles of wax.”
A phone number written on a piece of paper was missing and a roll of paper towel had been moved, said the judge.
“This, in my view, carries all the warning signs of someone who had developed an infatuation with a stranger, heedless of the boundaries of agency and consent,” Atwood said. The victim told the court the break-in caused her to lose a sense of security and safety in her own home. “She laments her trust in others as having been sabotaged and expresses worry about the effect of this violation on her son.”
New Glasgow police arrested MacDonald just after 8 p.m. July 3, 2017, after “he ran a red light and pulled over only after driving some distance with police in pursuit,” Atwood said.
He pleaded guilty to drunk driving, the break-in, and breaking previous bail conditions to abstain from alcohol and abide by a curfew.
Atwood reduced MacDonald’s fine for the break-in from $3,000 to $2,000 because police violated his charter rights. He also put him on probation for three years and ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of $600. The judge fined MacDonald $300 for both of the bail breaches, plus a $45 victim surcharge for each count.
Atwood fined MacDonald $1,500 for drunk driving and imposed a $450 victim surcharge.