Notorious Halifax crime figure Jimmy Melvin Jr. has been designated a dangerous offender and locked up indefinitely.
Melvin, 38, was sentenced in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Monday on charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a plot to kill rival gangster Terry Marriott Jr. that was thwarted by police in December 2008.
A jury found Melvin guilty in October 2017. The Crown then applied to have Melvin declared a dangerous offender and locked up indefinitely for the protection of the public.
After a series of delays because of changes in legal representation and then COVID-19, the dangerous-offender hearing finally began last July.
The Crown argued at the hearing that Melvin has engaged in a pattern of “unrestrained, repetitive, violent behaviour” for more than 25 years. That violence included an attack on an inmate at the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., last September, while Melvin was in the middle of the dangerous-offender hearing.
In his decision Monday, Justice Peter Rosinski said Melvin presents a high risk to commit further violence in the future, and that his risk is intractable.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Melvin is properly designated as a ‘dangerous offender,’ and that an indeterminate sentence of incarceration is the only appropriate sentence,” Rosinski said in a 164-page decision.
The judge concluded there was no “reasonable expectation” that any kind of a determinate sentence, even one with up to 10 years of long-term supervision in the community, would adequately protect the public against the commission of murder or another violent offence by Melvin.
The Parole Board of Canada must review Melvin’s case after seven years and again every two years to see if his risk has decreased to a point where he can be safely released into the community on parole.
“An indeterminate sentence provides Mr. Melvin with only one way out of continued incarceration – that is by establishing a record of positive change before the parole board that would justify a conclusion that his ongoing risk level … has been reliably reduced to a point that his detention could no longer be justified,” Rosinski said.
“It provides Mr. Melvin the opportunity for release into the community and protects the public by limiting his release unless and until public safety no longer trumps Mr. Melvin’s right to reasonable liberty.”
The judge also ordered Melvin to provide a DNA sample for a national databank, imposed a lifetime firearms prohibition, and banned him from communicating with 36 people who testified at trial or sentencing, as well as Joshua Preeper, the man Melvin attacked in prison last September.
Melvin has more than 60 convictions on his criminal record since 1994, including 34 for offences involving violence, threats or weapons. He recently completed a federal sentence for assault and other offences from altercations with guards at Nova Scotia jails.
Last Sept. 26, Melvin and another inmate assaulted Preeper, a Nova Scotia man serving a life sentence for second-degree murder, in an outdoor recreation yard at the Atlantic Institution. Preeper was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
The incident was captured on surveillance video that was entered as evidence at the dangerous-offender hearing in November.
The video shows the three men were in the yard for about a half-hour before Melvin sucker-punched Preeper in the head, knocking him to the ground. Melvin and Morgan James McNeil then kicked Preeper while he was on the ground.
Melvin stomped on Preeper’s head 10 times and followed that up with 13 soccer-style kicks to the head. McNeil and Melvin high-fived each other before correctional officers entered the yard and took them away.
RCMP announced last month that Melvin and McNeil, 29, of Glace Bay, have both been charged with aggravated assault. They will be arraigned in New Brunswick provincial court in February.
Rosinski ruled last month that video of the prison beating was admissible as pattern evidence at the dangerous-offender hearing.
The judge noted Melvin, after stomping on Preeper’s head, “nonchalantly” looked up at the surveillance camera and then “steps back, as if to kick a field goal in football, and so kicks the helpless victim in the head with great force.”
Preeper, 28, was left unconscious by the attack. He was placed on a ventilator and was in a medically induced coma until Oct. 20, “when he opened his eyes but had no idea where he was, had no idea what had happened to him, and did not recognize his own physician,” Rosinski said.
Melvin was later transferred to the Correctional Service of Canada's Special Handling Unit, a super-maximum-security prison in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., for high-risk inmates who cannot be managed at a normal maximum-security institution.
Marriott was shot to death while taking a nap at a friend’s house in Harrietsfield in February 2009 at the age of 34.
Melvin has been in custody since July 2015, when he was arrested and charged with murdering Marriott and plotting to kill him.
He stood trial on a charge of first-degree murder but was acquitted by a jury in the spring of 2017. He went to trial a few months later on the attempted murder and conspiracy charges and was convicted.
During a video appearance from the Quebec prison last month, Melvin told Rosinski he had been “wrongfully convicted all around.”
“I stand by my innocence,” Melvin said. “I’m only guilty by my name and association.”
Melvin appeared in court in person for Monday’s decision. He quarantined in a Nova Scotia jail for 14 days after he was transported from Quebec.
Rosinski took only a few minutes to deliver a bottom-line ruling, and lawyers were given copies of his full decision.
“That’s it?” Melvin asked after the judge left the courtroom.
Melvin’s lawyer, Ray Kuszelewski, had requested a determinate sentence with long-term supervision in the community. He questioned the wisdom of keeping Melvin in prison indefinitely, saying many of his offences have been committed while in custody.
Kuszelewski did not wish to be interviewed as he left court Monday, saying he needed to discuss the decision with Melvin.
“It’s a dark day indeed,” the lawyer said before getting on an elevator.
Crown attorney Rick Woodburn told reporters the judge’s decision “should send a message to like-minded individuals that their behavior in correctional facilities counts.
“Justice Rosinski made a point of saying that Mr. Melvin’s violent history inside the institution aided in making his final determination that he was a dangerous offender,” said Woodburn, who prosecuted the case with Christine Driscoll and Sean McCarroll.
“So disruptions (and) assaultive behaviour against guards and other inmates will not be tolerated.”
He said the dangerous-offender designation doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for Melvin.
“There is a possibility that he can get out in the future,” Woodburn said. “He just has to apply himself. This is up to Mr. Melvin.”
Woodburn said the case has been “a long and painful process” for Marriott’s family. “We understand that it’s been years and years of waiting for a verdict such as this,” he said. “Hopefully, this will help them move on.”
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