Ryan Farrell told the judge before his trial began Wednesday that he was comfortable representing himself, since he had done it once before and it was a “slam dunk.”
He didn’t quite get the same outcome this time around.
Farrell, 31, was arrested a month ago after an altercation with his landlord, Leonard Phair. Phair is paid by the province to provide emergency shelter to those in need out of four multi-tenant houses in the St. John’s area, and Farrell was staying in one of them in July.
Another tenant testified, saying Farrell had been upset with a third man staying in the house, accusing him of having stolen money from his bedroom. The witness said Farrell had called Phair twice in the span of about an hour, asking to be moved to another property.
“He was really agitated, yelling and screaming at Mr. Phair over the phone that he wanted to be moved,” the man told the court.
Phair came to the residence, and he and Farrell first spoke outside before coming inside and arguing. Phair eventually told Farrell to pack his belongings and leave, the tenant said.
Phair also took the stand, telling the court he had given Farrell garbage bags and had been standing in Farrell’s bedroom doorway watching him pack when Farrell picked up a small hammer and raised it multiple times as if he was going to strike him.
“He was yelling and screaming at me that I was a shit landlord, saying, ‘You should be providing more stuff to me,’ saying I made a million dollars a year because he had seen it on TV and I should be providing a washer and dryer,” Phair said. “I said, Look, Ryan, this is emergency accommodations. This is not a hotel that you rent.”
“He said, ‘I’ve stabbed someone before and got away with it, I’ll do the same to you, I’ll kill you.'”
Farrell was acquitted last May of stabbing a man on Southside Road two months earlier.
Phair said he asked the other tenant to come and witness what Farrell was doing with the hammer, but Farrell put the hammer down on his bed before the other man got to the doorway. Phair said he went to the living room to call the police and Farrell followed him, ripping the phone cord out of the wall.
The tenant was the one who contacted police, having been asked by Phair to go next door and call 911.
“(Ryan) was telling him, ‘Don’t be a rat,’” Phair said. “I said (to the tenant), ‘Remember where you’re sleeping to. I’m taking care of you. (The tenant) went next door and Ryan ran off.”
On cross-examination, Farrell questioned the other tenant about the fact that he hadn’t actually seen him with the hammer in his hand or ripping the phone cord out of the wall. He also pressed the man on what had transpired before that moment.
“Did (Phair) threaten me?” Farrell asked.
“No,” the man replied. He said he had heard Phair call Farrell names but hadn’t heard him make any threats.
“Are you sure about that? You’re under oath now,” Farrell said.
“I did not hear him threaten you,” the witness answered.
When it came to Phair, Farrell asked him about the manner in which he had handed him the garbage bags, the lack of locks on the bedroom doors of the residence, and the fact that he charges tenants for house keys. Judge Colin Flynn reminded Farrell that those issues weren’t being addressed by the court and he wasn’t there to air grievances.
In his closing submissions, prosecutor Jude Hall pointed out that an assault with a weapon charge can include gestures and not actual contact.
“There’s no reason to doubt Mr. Phair’s statement,” Hall said. “His credibility was not questioned. (Farrell) certainly didn’t test any part of his statement or even the fact that it happened, he just questioned him on the state of the place.” Hall stressed the other tenant’s credibility as well.
“He is absolutely right on one point. You should credit (the tenant’s) statement,” Farrell told the judge when it was his turn for submissions. “He never saw me holding the hammer and he never saw me rip out the phone cord. The hammer could have been on my bed for any reason. I could have been fixing something in my room.
“(Phair) should not be operating these homeless shelters, in my opinion.”
The judge said he accepted Farrell’s point about the hammer, but when looking at the evidence and the circumstances as a whole, he was satisfied that Farrell was guilty. He convicted Farrell on charges of assault with a weapon, uttering threats, damage to property (the phone cord), and three breaches of court orders. He acquitted Farrell of a fourth breach, after Farrell argued the court order had been expired at the time of the incident.
Flynn sentenced Farrell to 60 days in custody. With enhanced remand credit, Farrell has six days left to serve. He has consented to stay in custody for another month, however, when he’ll be back to face unrelated charges.
Farrell had also been scheduled to go to trial Wednesday on a charge of criminally harassing a woman via online messages, but the case didn’t proceed since the woman didn’t show up. Although Farrell requested the charge be withdrawn, Flynn granted the Crown’s request to issue an appearance warrant for the woman instead, since there was no indication if she had chosen not to attend or if she had been unable to be there.
“I’m going to end up serving time on a charge I didn’t do and that’s probably going to be thrown out,” Farrell said in protest. “It should have been thrown out here today. I think there should be some sort of repercussions, I should get something thrown my way for having to stay in jail for a charge I didn’t do.
“There’s a story for you, my love,” he said, turning towards The Telegram reporter. “Print that. You have my permission.”