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HMP guards mistreated Hart, defence claims


It was a fair question — if the policy at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) is that prisoners wear a shirt while eating meals, why was it that only Nelson Hart had to adhere to that rule the day his lunch ended up on the floor and he ended up in segregation?

Nelson Hart was back in provincial court in St. John’s Wednesday for the continuation of his trial.

“I’d just like to know why is it different for him?” defence lawyer Jeff Brace asked corrections officer Ryan Preston during testimony Wednesday in Hart’s trial at provincial court in St. John’s.

“It isn’t,” Preston replied, shrugging his shoulders.

But Brace said that wasn’t the case at lunchtime on June 24, 2013, on HMP’s special-handling unit. While officers initially refused to give Hart his lunch until he put on a shirt, they let fellow inmate Kenny Green walk freely out of his cell with no shirt on and eat his lunch.

“He didn’t have a shirt to put on at the time,” Preston said, explaining Green’s actions.

But Brace was quick to point out, “Actually, seconds later, he put it on.”

Related story:

Dramatic video shows prison guards swarm inmate in cell

 

He then pointed to the HMP video surveillance, which shows Green sitting shirtless at the table eating before putting his shirt on a minute later.

Brace said it was one of many ways Hart was mistreated by the officers that day.

Hart faces three counts of uttering threats and a single count of mischief by damaging HMP property.

The whole thing was caught on HMP video surveillance. Various angles show Hart getting so angry, he smashed a TV when he swung a kettle at  it. He also reportedly threatened to kill officers.

The video also shows 10 officers swarming Hart’s cell, grabbing him from his bed, holding him face down on the floor and dragging him, with his pants falling down, to segregation.

It was said to have started when Hart refused to comply with orders.

“When we asked him to put on a shirt, he said to us, ‘I don’t have to (expletive) do that for you. I don’t have to do anything for you,’” Preston testified.

He said they continued to serve the other inmates and then finally went back to Hart’s cell, where Preston said he slipped the meal through the wicket.

“In the transfer, something got spilled on the floor,” Preston said.

That comment prompted Hart to laugh out loud in court.

Preston said he asked Hart to come out of the cell. He said when he went in the cell to clean up the mess, he noticed items that were not permitted, although he could not recall what they were.

Hart, meanwhile, had tried to take another inmate’s meal, he said, but officers told him it wasn’t his. That’s when he became irate and swung the kettle.

Preston said a Code Yellow was called, an emergency situation calling for extra staff to come to the area.

On the way back to the cell, Preston said, Hart said he was going to kill them.

Once inside his cell again, Hart again refused to obey orders to put his hands out of the window to be handcuffed, Preston said.

That’s when the 10 guards rushed to Hart’s cell, restrained him and took him to segregation.

Hart has said one of the officers punched him while he was face down on the floor.

“During the process, did you, yourself, or anybody else strike or punch Mr. Hart?” Crown prosecutor Mike Murray asked.

“Absolutely not,” Preston replied.

“Did you or anybody else say anything insulting or degrading to Mr. Hart?” Murray asked.

“Absolutely not,” Preston again replied.

The trial resumes May 15.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyCourt

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