SURREY, B.C. – Mounties used an undercover operation known as the Mr. Big sting to ensnare two people accused of a terror plot on British Columbia’s legislature, said a lawyer for one of the accused.
John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, who are alleged to have planned the bombing to coincide with Canada Day celebrations, appeared briefly in Surrey Provincial Court on Tuesday.
The case was then moved to the B.C. Supreme Court because federal Crown prosecutor Martha Devlin asked for a direct indictment, which requires the accused to be placed on trial without a preliminary inquiry.
After the court appearance, lawyer Tom Morino told reporters outside that while he knows few details about the investigation that led to Nuttall and Korody’s arrest last week, he knows that police used certain undercover tactics.
“While it’s very premature, it is my understanding that there was, as we’ve all come to know what is a Mr. Big operation,” he said. “There was that component to this investigation.”
A Mr. Big police sting is an investigative technique that requires officers to go undercover in order to gain the trust of suspects and ultimately obtain confessions used later in court.
After news of arrests broke last week, neighbours of the pair said they recalled seeing the couple interact with someone who came by in a pick-up truck. While Morino said he has yet to read the Crown’s evidence, he suspects whoever was in that truck was not just any person.
“I think it’s safe to assume certainly (some) of those people who were seen by the neighbours were likely undercover operatives,” he said.
When asked by a reporter, Morino also said he suspects certain elements of entrapment — where a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a crime that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit — may also have been part of the investigation.
None of Morino’s speculations have been confirmed by the police.
When announcing the arrests last week, RCMP admitted that they used “a variety of complex investigative and covert techniques” to foil what they said was a bomb plot inspired by al-Qaeda ideology, but would not provide specifics.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Wayne Rideout said only that a tip from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service prompted the investigation that started in February. He maintained the public was never endangered by the pressure cooker bombs that Nuttall and Korody were allegedly planning to detonate.
On Tuesday, both Nuttall and Korody appeared dishevelled, but happy to see each other after they were lead into separate prisoners’ boxes.
Nuttall, a tall 38-year-old from Victoria with messy dark hair and a beard, walked into the courtroom wearing a red T-shirt and clutching a copy of the Qur’an.
His partner Korody, who is from St. Catharines, Ont., appeared in a green T-shirt. She seemed slightly wary at first, but smiled happily at Nuttall when she saw him.
Morino said the two are “devoted to each other” and are being kept in segregation while detained in different institutions.
“My understanding is that the correctional system has made that decision for their own security,” he said. “You can appreciate someone locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, it’s difficult.”
Nuttall is also suffering from withdrawal, as he has stopped taking methadone to treat his drug addiction, Morino said. However, the lawyer said he spoke with his client for a few hours the night before, and Nuttall appeared in good spirits and animated.
While the RCMP have described the couple as “self-radicalized,” home-grown terror suspects, details have emerged indicating Nuttall and Korody are impoverished, troubled individuals who converted to Islam and enjoy paintball.
Nuttall and Korody are each charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, making or possessing an explosive device and conspiracy to place an explosive device with the intent to cause death or injury.
They are expected to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Morino said he will apply to put the matter over for a few months so that he can go over the Crown’s disclosure, which he expects will comprise several thousand pages of information.