Defence, Crown at odds over sentencing in Dwight Ball bomb threat case
A provincial court judge will take a couple of months to decide whether a woman who called in a bomb threat against Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball deserves jail time or house arrest.
Dorothy Joan Carnell was back in court last Wednesday for sentencing submissions. Judge Bruce Short found the 53-year-old Placentia resident guilty earlier this year on charges of uttering threats to cause death to Ball, conveying false information by reporting to police there was a bomb, causing public mischief, and uttering threats to damage or destroy property.
The incident leading up to Carnell’s arrest happened Nov. 14, 2015, when the Liberal leader was in the middle of an election campaign. He was at the Placentia Mall that day to visit local candidate Sherry Gambin-Walsh when a call came in to an RCMP dispatcher indicating there was a bomb in the building. The mall was evacuated shortly thereafter.
Video surveillance footage placed Carnell at the payphone inside the mall that RCMP determined the call originated from. When asked why she did it, the caller told the RCMP dispatcher, “I just don’t like Dwight Ball,” adding she was aware of his scheduled visit. Placentia RCMP arrested Carnell later that evening.
At the Placentia courthouse Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Paul Thistle recommended a seven-month jail sentence for Carnell. He argued there were a number of aggravating factors to consider.
The fact she said there was a bomb in the building threatened the safety of many, he noted. The incident tied up emergency resources for several hours and impacted the bottom line for businesses forced to close. Finally, Thistle pointed out the incident threatened a public figure, which he argued constitutes a threat to democracy itself.
Thistle was also troubled by the fact Carnell failed to take responsibility for her actions. In the pre-sentencing report, he noted Carnell told its author she was charged and found guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the arresting officer had something against her.
Letters filed by local businesses and the provincial Liberal party highlighted the financial impact of the incident. Sobeys in Placentia indicated lost revenue that day amounted to $18,500.
Defence lawyer Tim O’Brien recommended a 12-month conditional sentence. He characterized Carnell’s crime as “an immature type of offence” and cited the tone of the call to police as an indicator that her act was impulsive and not preplanned. O’Brien made reference to her difficult upbringing and mental health struggles, acknowledging she’s sought treatment multiple times.
Carnell has one unrelated prior conviction dating back to 1998. O’Brien also brought up comments in the pre-sentencing report from Sgt. Dale Foote indicating Placentia RCMP views Carnell as more of a “public nuisance” rather than a threat to the public. Foote added she was well known to police at the time of the incident.
Short is scheduled to make a decision on sentencing Aug. 30 at the Placentia courthouse.
Dorothy Carnell entering Harbour Grace Provincial Court in 2016.