Man says he wasn’t try­ing to hurt any­one when he bit Cor­ner Brook cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer

The Western Star - - Close to Home - BY DI­ANE CROCKER THE WESTERN STAR dcrocker@thewest­ern­star.com Twit­ter: WS_DianeCrocker

Was it a case of self-de­fence or is a man ex­ag­ger­at­ing his dis­abil­i­ties as a de­fence for his ac­tions?

That’s what Judge Wayne Gor­man will have to con­sider as he weighs the ev­i­dence heard in pro­vin­cial court in Cor­ner Brook on Thurs­day dur­ing the trial of Wil­liam (Billy) Wool­ridge.

Wool­ridge, 44, is charged with as­sault­ing a peace of­fi­cer and breach of an un­der­tak­ing.

He was ar­rested on Dec. 22, 2016, just hours af­ter re­turn­ing to the prov­ince, on a war­rant for fail­ure to at­tend court in St. John’s.

Wool­ridge’s vi­sion im­pair­ment was clear to the ar­rest­ing Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary of­fi­cer, who tes­ti­fied that he helped him down some stairs. The of­fi­cer also tes­ti­fied that Wool­ridge asked ques­tions about what was hap­pen­ing, but felt he un­der­stood.

Once at the Cor­ner Brook lockup, cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers be­gan the in­take process, and video shown in court shows a co-op­er­a­tive Wool­ridge tak­ing off his coat and boots and hand­ing them to the of­fi­cers.

The ar­rest­ing RNC of­fi­cer and two cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers present at the time, one of whom is the al­leged vic­tim, tes­ti­fied Wool­ridge’s per­sonal be­long­ings, in­clud­ing med­i­ca­tions for epilepsy and asthma, were laid out on a counter in front of him.

They said when Wool­ridge was told he could not take his med­i­ca­tions into the cell with him, he be­came ag­i­tated and was adamant he was tak­ing them.

He’s seen in the video grab­bing the med­i­ca­tions off the counter and rais­ing his clutched hands across his chest. Cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers on ei­ther side of him at­tempt to get the med­i­ca­tions out of his hands by tak­ing hold of his arms. As this hap­pens, Wool­ridge bends for­ward and bites into the hand of one of the cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers.

In the strug­gle, they all fall to the floor and it’s only then that the al­leged vic­tim is able to free his thumb, which he tes­ti­fied was en­tirely in Wool­ridge’s mouth.

The cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer was treated at hospi­tal for in­juries to his thumb. He had to take an­tibi­otics for 14 days and ex­pe­ri­enced a lack of sen­sa­tion to the top of his knuckle for sev­eral weeks, he said.

Wool­ridge tes­ti­fied he could not hear what was be­ing said to him and felt he was be­ing ganged up on.

He ad­mit­ted he wouldn’t let them take the med­i­ca­tions, and said it was be­cause he needed to use them. And said he wasn’t try­ing to hurt any­one.

In his sub­mis­sion, Wool­ridge’s lawyer, Gary Kear­ney, sug­gested his client acted in self­de­fence. Given his blind­ness, he said, Wool­ridge could not iden­tify the vic­tim as a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer and did not know who was touch­ing him.

He also ques­tioned whether tak­ing med­i­ca­tions from an ac­cused was a prac­tice or a pol­icy.

The vic­tim tes­ti­fied it was some­thing they al­ways did, but could not in­di­cate if there was a writ­ten pol­icy.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Adam Sparkes said Wool­ridge didn’t like the ex­pla­na­tion of why he couldn’t keep his med­i­ca­tions and that’s when he got an­gry.

He said bit­ing the of­fi­cer was de­lib­er­ate and no ac­ci­dent.

Sparkes said there was some­thing not right in Wool­ridge’s ev­i­dence about his hear­ing. Wool­ridge said he could not hear the of­fi­cer speak­ing next to him, but he could hear the rat­tling of the pill bot­tle.

“I be­lieve he’s ex­ag­ger­at­ing quite sub­stan­tially his abil­ity to hear in court and he’s us­ing that as a de­fence.”

Wool­ridge was also able to pick up the pill bot­tle from the counter with­out fum­bling and put it in an of­fi­cer’s face, yet he told the court he can only see some­thing if it’s right in front of his nose, Sparkes said.

Sparkes said he has no doubt Wool­ridge has a vi­sion im­pair­ment, but that he is ex­ag­ger­at­ing it.

Sparkes said Wool­ridge’s ev­i­dence should be re­jected in its en­tirety.

Gor­man will ren­der his de­ci­sion in the case on Sept. 18.

DI­ANE CROCKER/THE WESTERN STAR

Wil­liam (Billy) Wool­ridge dur­ing a break in his trial in pro­vin­cial court in Cor­ner Brook on Thurs­day.

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