Judge adjourns bail hearing for man charged in chemicals case

A judge has adjourned a bail hearing for a Cole Harbour man charged in a January chemicals scare that prompted evacuations in two Halifax-area communities.

Judge Alanna Murphy was expected to make a decision Tuesday in Dartmouth provincial court on a bail application for Christopher Burton Phillips but instead gave the defence the option of trying to come up with a better release plan.

Murphy said she views Phillips as “releasable” but not with the proposed surety — his estranged wife, Gosia Phillips.

Defence lawyer Mike Taylor took the judge up on her offer to adjourn the hearing. Taylor asked that the matter be postponed until May 26, when Phillips is scheduled to have a preliminary inquiry.

Phillips, 42, was arrested at an Ottawa hotel Jan. 21 and brought back to Nova Scotia on an RCMP plane. He’s charged with uttering threats against police in an email to a friend and possession of a weapon — a highly toxic chemical compound called osmium tetroxide — for a dangerous purpose.

He will be back before a judge March 25 to apply to have his trial in provincial court rather than in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. If the bid to re-elect is successful, the May 26 date will be used for a trial instead of a preliminary inquiry.

Phillips, a United States citizen with law and medical degrees, will remain behind bars at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth.
The bail hearing started last Friday with testimony from the lead RCMP investigator, Phillips and his wife.

Gosia Phillips, a doctor, told the court she was willing to pledge $10,000 in property to secure her husband’s release.

She testified that even though they are separated and she has a legal agreement prohibiting him from entering her home, she was willing to act as his guarantor.

RCMP Sgt. Lisa Stuart said the investigation began when Gosia Phillips came to police Jan. 19 and told them her husband’s mental health was deteriorating and he was behaving strangely.

The woman told investigators her husband had osmium tetroxide and possibly uranium and she was worried the chemicals posed a threat to her children’s safety.

Halifax RCMP obtained a Canada-wide warrant for Christopher Phillips’s arrest after vials of osmium tetroxide were found in a shed behind his Cole Harbour home.

Police then discovered a large stash of chemicals inside Phillips’s cottage and shed on Dyke Road in Grand Desert. Police have alleged the chemicals were in various states of degradation.

Under cross-examination by the defence, Stuart said none of the chemicals found at Phillips’s house or cottage were illegal and he is not charged with improper storage.

Phillips also testified at his bail hearing, saying he used the chemicals to extract precious metals.

Defence lawyers routinely request publication bans on bail hearings, which judges must grant. But Taylor told the court he did not want a ban on this hearing, so the evidence can be reported.

Phillips hammed it up for the media as he was escorted into the courthouse Tuesday, flashing peace signs with both hands and saying, “I love you guys.”

With The Canadian Press

Click here to see original article written by Steve Bruce Court Reporter, Herald News

April 13, 2015