Some of John Nuttall's plots might have seemed impractical but that's how "lone-wolf terrorists" operate – they start with "crazy ideas" and then settle on one, the Crown told an entrapment hearing Monday.
The Crown portrayed Mr. Nuttall and his wife, who were convicted last year in a plot to bomb the B.C. legislature, as willing terrorists who were not entrapped by undercover police.
But the judge on Monday questioned the couple's intellectual capacity – at one point citing an incident in which they tried to mentally will themselves to forget a person's name.
Mr. Nuttall and Amanda Korody were found guilty last June of conspiring to murder persons unknown and making or possessing an explosive substance – in both cases for the benefit of or at the direction of a terrorist group.
They were arrested on Canada Day, 2013, after they placed potentially explosive pressure-cooker devices outside the government building.
Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody have argued they were victims of police entrapment. A hearing into that aspect of the case began last July, with closing arguments starting last week.
The Crown began its submission in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.
Prosecutor Peter Eccles told the court Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody "planned and committed these terrorist crimes of their own free will" and were not pushed into it by anyone.
"They did it because they wanted to," he said.
Mr. Eccles said the RCMP had solid grounds to begin investigating Mr. Nuttall. He said a man Mr. Nuttall met at a mosque in 2011 called police and told them Mr. Nuttall had been talking about fighting a holy war in Afghanistan. Mr. Nuttall and his wife had recently converted to Islam.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service also contacted the RCMP in early 2013 to inform them Mr. Nuttall had been attempting to purchase potassium nitrate, which can be used in explosives.
Mr. Nuttall's counsel has said that information was not corroborated and argued that while police may have had reasonable suspicion to begin their investigation, it should have become clear Mr. Nuttall was not engaged in terrorist activity and was "all talk."
Lawyers for Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody have said their clients were isolated and impoverished, rarely venturing far from the Surrey basement suite where they lived. But Mr. Eccles said a person can be radicalized online and does not need a large circle to commit a terrorist act.
He said while some of Mr. Nuttall's ideas might have seemed far-fetched – Mr. Nuttall proposed firing rockets across the U.S. border or hijacking a nuclear submarine, among other things – that is not unusual for terrorism cases.
"Everyone agrees that some of Mr. Nuttall's ideas were not practical and not feasible. The difficulty for [opposing counsel] is everyone also agrees that's how lone-wolf terrorists operate," he said. "… Terrorists start with a lot of crazy ideas and they bounce them around and they bounce them around and eventually they settle on one that works."
Justice Catherine Bruce, who oversaw the trial and is now presiding over the entrapment hearing, pressed Mr. Eccles at several points, including when he discussed the couple's mental health or handicap. Mr. Eccles said a nurse in 2012 said Mr. Nuttall may have been "developmentally delayed" but he was not diagnosed with a mental illness. Mr. Eccles said there is even less evidence of a mental health issue for Ms. Korody. Defence lawyers have said the couple was highly susceptible to whatever they were told.
Justice Bruce questioned Mr. Eccles about the couple's intellectual capacity. She cited an incident in which they were left alone in a vehicle and were recorded discussing what they would do if they were captured and tortured. She said Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody decided they would forget the name of the primary undercover officer, whom they cared for.
"That is not an indication of a person who has a normal intellect, a person who is able to function in an average, normal way. We don't go around pressing our brains and trying to forget," the judge said.
Mr. Eccles disagreed and said terrorists wouldn't be terrorists if they did not have odd ideas.