John Nuttall and Amanda Korody have been found guilty of plotting to detonate pressure-cooker bombs outside the B.C. legislature on Canada Day in a case that raised questions about police tactics amid increasing fears of homegrown terrorism.
And the case is not yet complete – the parties will soon return to court to consider if the accused were entrapped by police.
A jury returned to a Vancouver courtroom on Tuesday after three days of deliberations and found the couple guilty of conspiring to murder persons unknown and making or possessing an explosive substance – in both cases for the benefit or at the direction of a terrorist group. The judge said she would wait to enter the verdicts until she hears the entrapment argument – which cannot be heard by a jury.
The Crown said Mr. Nuttall branded himself and Ms. Korody "al-Qaeda Canada" and attempted the attack in the hopes it would make Canadians think twice about sending troops to Muslim countries, although prosecutors also said Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were the sole members of their terrorist group.
Defence lawyers attempted to portray Mr. Nuttall, 40, and Ms. Korody, who is about a decade younger, as poverty-stricken heroin addicts who were manipulated by police.
Peter Eccles, the Crown prosecutor, said outside court he was "pleased at how hard the jury worked."
He said anyone who thinks the accused would have been harmless if not for the intervention of undercover RCMP officers should look at the evidence.
"In particular, take a look at the Inspire magazine with the instructions on how to put butcher knives on the front of your pick-up truck before you run people down on a shaheed mission," he told reporters after the verdict.
"Those were the sorts of things Mr. Nuttall thought of. He had a great many plans. The police ensured that those plans that put the public at risk were not pursued."
Marilyn Sandford, Mr. Nuttall's lawyer, said her client was disappointed by the jury's decision, but also "appreciates that some of the important issues in this case are to be determined by the judge at the next phase."
"We say the RCMP manufactured this crime and that's not permissible in our law," she said.
Mark Jetté, Ms. Korody's lawyer, said entrapment is "where the rubber hits the road in this case."
"Anytime you've gone through a situation like this and you're found guilty obviously it's not a pleasant feeling. But she's also prepared for it, and very prepared for the next stage of this case," he said.
The parties are due back in court June 9. Ms. Sandford said the entrapment argument is expected in July.
The couple was arrested on July 1, 2013, hours after the pressure-cooker devices were dropped off at the legislature in Victoria. The RCMP had already ensured the bombs could not explode, the court heard.
Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were living in a basement suite in Surrey, B.C., at the time of their arrests. They had also lived in Victoria and spent time on the street. Friends of the couple expressed surprise when they were charged, saying that while Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody had seemed anti-establishment, they appeared to care more about rock and roll than anything else. Mr. Nuttall had played guitar in a rock band.
At the time of the arrests, the RCMP said they began their investigation after a tip from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency. Mr. Nuttall, in an undercover police recording played during the trial, said he believed members of a mosque called the authorities on him.
The RCMP investigation into Mr. Nuttall began in February, 2013.
An undercover officer whose identity cannot be revealed first spoke with Mr. Nuttall at a gas station in early March. The officer, who would become the primary police contact with the couple, told Mr. Nuttall he was an Arab businessman looking for his runaway niece. Mr. Nuttall offered to help and told the officer he was a recent convert to Islam, the court heard. Mr. Nuttall came to believe the officer was part of a terrorism network.
The court heard that, Mr. Nuttall, at that first meeting, said Muslims were being oppressed and he wanted to participate in jihad, and that he was a hacker and could bring down the computer systems of the government of Israel.
Mr. Nuttall regularly made bizarre and implausible, if not factually incorrect, statements on the police recordings. He did not know the date of Canada Day, and at one point said he could hear his cat, even though he was in a different city. At another point, he said he nearly died after accidentally ingesting ant poison he had spilled on a counter top. The jury heard the RCMP considered the possibility Mr. Nuttall was "developmentally delayed." His lawyer said Mr. Nuttall had Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nerve disorder, and sometimes used a cane.
Before proceeding with the home-made bombs – which Mr. Nuttall's lawyer said was done only after intense pressure from undercover police – Mr. Nuttall suggested firing rockets at a military base, hijacking a train to demand the release of imprisoned Canadian Omar Khadr, attacking a nuclear submarine, and sinking a ferry, and other things.
Even in the days leading up to the plot, Mr. Nuttall was still discussing options.
Despite Mr. Nuttall's concerns he was not smart enough to see the plot through, Mr. Eccles, the Crown prosecutor, told the court Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were more than capable.
Three pressure-cooker devices were built. The court heard the devices could cause a 150-metre blast wave. They were put in two bags and placed in planters outside the legislature. The first explosion was scheduled for 10 a.m., the second at 10:15. Court heard Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody wanted a delay between the blasts to ensure the second explosion injured or killed first-responders.
The court heard that Mr. Nuttall at one point said he hoped the attack would kill as many people as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He quoted Osama bin Laden and praised the men who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings, which also used pressure-cooker devices.
Ms. Sandford, Mr. Nuttall's lawyer, noted he at one point expressed fear about what the primary undercover officer would do if he and Ms. Korody did not see the plot through. He said he feared they would end up in "cement galoshes at the bottom of the ocean."
Ms. Sandford said Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were damaged by addiction, living in poverty and then manipulated by police. She said the officers posing as members of the terrorism network not only created an environment of fear, but also offered Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody a new life in a new country, away from their hardships.
She said the officers' claims that Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody could cancel the attack any time were not genuine. Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody considered backing out hours before the bombs were to be dropped off, but decided they had gone too far and could not do so.
Mr. Jetté, Ms. Korody's lawyer, told the court his client was not the target of the investigation and was very much in the background before she "became ensnared" by police.
Mr. Jetté said the RCMP forced her to become involved, pointing to a June 25, 2013, document in which an undercover officer was told to "insist" she attend a meeting.
Mr. Jetté also pointed to multiple instances in which Ms. Korody responded to Mr. Nuttall by saying, "Yes, sir." He said that showed she was only "obeying orders" and that she "consented to play the obedient Muslim woman and wife."
The Crown said Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were a team, and that Ms. Korody frequently offered suggestions to enhance the plot.
The primary undercover officer was the primary witness in the case, and was on the stand for several weeks.
The court heard that the officer routinely bought the couple drinks from Tim Hortons, and groceries, and drove them around for hours. He also gave Mr. Nuttall hundreds of dollars, sometimes for running errands and sometimes for no reason. However, the officer insisted the accused pay for the pressure-cookers with their own money, which they did after Mr. Nuttall received his welfare cheque.
The officer told the court that spending "to his last cent" showed how committed Mr. Nuttall was.
Court heard the RCMP investigation involved 240 officers, although a breakdown of what they did and how heavily they were involved was not provided. At one point, police needed to install surveillance equipment in the couple's basement suite, so they arranged for them to take a trip to Kelowna, B.C. Police then pretended there was a hazmat incident in the couple's Surrey neighbourhood; multiple residences were evacuated as they installed the surveillance equipment.
Mr. Nuttall physically appeared much different on the videos than he did in court. He was clean-shaven with short hair in court; on the videos he had long hair and a beard. Ms. Korody wore a hijab each day of the trial, as she typically did in the videos.
The trial nearly fell apart in its final moments after the Crown's closing submission. Justice Catherine Bruce chastised Mr. Eccles for showing a 45-minute video in which the Crown replayed portions of the police recordings. Justice Bruce said the jury was supposed to decide the case on the entirety of the evidence, not a "dramatization." She said she would remind the jury "we're not here watching television" and criticized Mr. Eccles for mentioning defences, such as duress, that the jury was not supposed to consider.
"This is a very borderline case. Had this not been a very long, protracted and difficult trial, I may well have believed that the jury could not be neutralized … from the improprieties that the Crown engaged in during their address and I would have to declare a mistrial," she said.
Mr. Eccles said Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody chose to carry out the plan and did exactly what terrorists do – conspired to make bombs and kill innocent bystanders.
He urged the jury not to lose sight of the fact the accused "wanted to murder people."
"They're guilty," he said in closing his case. "Find them so."