Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 24, 2011

‘I want to move on,’ inmate says

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 was a particularly difficult day for guards at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

By Justine Davidson on February 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

MICHAEL NEHASS

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 was a particularly difficult day for guards at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

On that day, the four inmates housed in cell number three – including Michael Nehass and Kevin Pahtayken – were reaping the rewards of a homemade alcohol still in their cell.

The men were already shirtless, drunk and rowdy by 6 p.m., when a female guard was sent to the central cell block to check on the men.

Four hours later, the men would attack a trio of guards who came to their cell, which by that time was flooded with water, leaving one guard with a shattered nose and a fractured leg.

But in the early evening, things were still relatively tame in cell number three, although the events that unfolded there left the lone guard shaken and upset.

The woman, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban imposed in court Wednesday, was greeted by the four drunk inmates.

Pahtayken grinned and slapped her on the back, in what she felt was a sincerely friendly gesture.

But when Nehass reached out and briefly touched her, she later told prosecutors, she felt the touch was meant to be threatening, and “compromised her authority as a corrections officer.”

After reading the victim impact statement presented to him Wednesday, territorial court judge Mike Cozens, said the woman was “quite afraid and quite humiliated” by the incident, and now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

Judging by the charge which was later laid against Nehass, she also felt the touch was sexual.

The now-27-year-old Teslin man was charged with sexual assault, in addition to a host of other charges stemming from the fight which would break out later that night.

Nehass ultimately pleaded guilty to the second batch of charges, which included aggravated assault and assaulting a peace officer, but insisted he did not sexually assault the female guard.

As his lawyer told the court during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Nehass remembers very little of that day, but even so “was unprepared and unwilling to plead guilty to (sex assault).”

The case was set to go to trial, but a lack of evidence – including a lost or erased surveillance video from the jail – convinced the Crown’s office to enter into negotiations with Nehass as recently as last week, prosecutor Ludovic Gouaillier told the court Wednesday.

As a result, the sexual assault charge was dropped.

Nehass pleaded guilty to obstructing a peace officer, and the two sides agreed on a sentence of 30 days, which will be served at the same time as his sentence for the offences committed later the same day.

After Cozens had approved the suggested sentence, Nehass briefly addressed the court.

“The past couple of years, I found myself getting in more and more trouble ... making it worse for myself and worse for myself,” he said.

He did not take advantage of any of the programming offered inside or out of jail, and had no support system, he said.

Now Nehass’s father is back in his life, he is reconnecting with his community and attending rehab and training programs at the jail.

“I want to move on and have a normal life,” Nehass said.

“This is very positive progress,” Cozens said of the reports from jail guards who said Nehass “is doing great.”

This sentencing brings an end to Nehass’s role in the 2009 dustup, but Pahtayken is still waiting to be sentenced, and the Crown has brought a dangerous offender application against him.

CommentsAdd a comment

Andrew McGee

Feb 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Are you kidding me?  How many chances does a person deserve?  Again, another fine example of how it’s everyone else’s fault but the person who actually committed the crime.  Mr. Nehass should go to jail and stay there a long long time.  He is a waste of tax payers dollars.

David Shaw

Feb 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

A still in their cell? Sounds like alcohol is “part” of the problem.

Spencer Elofson

Mar 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

This is outrageous, 30 days, maybe the public should look at his criminal record. The Yukon will be a safer place wiith him locked up for good.

Someone

Mar 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm

well doesn’t everyone deserve a chance at life?? no matter how many it is. That’s what you get when you lock them up young and that’s all they know for life. They need to start a program to help them learn to live a normal life cause a lot of people are getting institutionalized. Jail life is all they know. If you ever got to know Mr. Nehass he has a really good heart. So before you jump to the gun you should look to see what our tax dollars are making these people into and try to help what we created.

someone too

Mar 3, 2011 at 8:46 am

It’s a sad day when incidents of this nature arise in our prisons. A “still”, “alchol” “violance” in a prison? Sounds to me like an internal investigation is needed. I know many maybe feel sympathy for the inmate? but what about a prison guard that has been traumatizied? Was this in her job discription?
Let me remind everyone that there are consiquences for our actions wither
incarsorated or not.You follow the laws of this land, you live out side the walls of a prison, you choose to break the law you need to live behind bars so that the rest of sociaty is safe!

someone too also

Mar 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I do know him personally and no he doesnt have a good heart, hes a lost cause. Nice try tho.

Tyson Gannon

Mar 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I agree with spencer. This individual is an adult and has two many chances at the yukon justice system he need to be sent out of the yukon for better help with his anger and substance abuse.  Yes he does diverse a second chance but after he get help out of the yukon.

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