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Jason Earle questions unexpected release from Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's

Jason Earle has pleaded not guilty to a string of charges related to a September 2016 standoff in St. John's.
Jason Earle. - Tara Bradbury file photo/The Telegram

Said he shouldn’t have been released due to his mental-health issues, and pending Tuesday’s expected sentencing to jail time

When Jason Earle’s case finished in provincial court in St. John’s last Thursday it was stated he would remain in custody until his Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court appearance Tuesday.

He is expected to be sentenced to time in prison for offences related to a standoff with police at his mother's Barachois Street home two years ago.

But about 4 p.m. Friday — to Earle’s sudden surprise — he was released from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s.

Earle and members of his family are unsure why he was released and, because of his mental-health issues, they say he shouldn’t have been released without assurance that someone was going to be there to pick him up and make sure he was OK.

“I’m clear-headed right now, but I switch, and I can’t control that,” Earle said Monday evening. “I was surprised big time (at being released). It’s sad actually because I’m suffering. I see a psychologist once a week down to (Her Majesty’s Penitentiary) and I expressed how I feel that if I ever do get out, if the right things are not put in place … because I switch, right? It’s like a re-run and it’s like they are not going nowhere with it. It’s too long of a process to get me the help I need. To throw me out with no address, and no one knew I was out … I don’t think they should have let me out.”

On Dec. 6 Earle, 25, was convicted in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of firearms charges, as well as charges of uttering threats and assaulting an RNC officer, in relation to the standoff at Barachois Street that occurred in September 2016. The Crown has asked for a four-year sentence in that case, while the defence suggested one year is sufficient. Justice Vikas Khaladkar will render his decision today.

Last Thursday, however, Earle was in provincial court to deal with charges related to a different standoff, one that took place over a number of hours last Sept. 10 at a two-apartment home on Kennedy Road in St. John’s. Earle pleaded guilty to charges of pointing an imitation gun, making threats to damage property, and two court order breaches. In that case Earle was sentenced in provincial court to time served and he was taken into custody to await today’s sentencing.

Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau and defence lawyer Jennifer Curran had submitted a joint suggestion that because Earle had earned 141 days credit in pre-trial custody, the time-served sentence would be sufficient.

Deveau noted that a mitigating factor in agreeing to the joint submission was that Earle would be sentenced today to prison time and thus should not be released from custody pending today’s sentence.

Judge Jacqueline Brazil accepted the joint submission and Earle was taken back into custody to await today’s sentencing.

The Telegram attempted to contact corrections officials and the Crown’s office late Monday afternoon for comment about why Earle was released late Friday afternoon, but was unable to get a response by deadline.

However, a source told The Telegram that when Earle was sentenced to time served on Thursday, there was no recognizance in place to hold him in custody, so corrections officials had no choice but to release him.

Earle’s father, Billy Earle, said someone has some explaining to do.

He noted that in both of his son’s cases before the courts, his son’s mental-health issues were raised and acknowledged.

In fact, Deveau had said of Jason Earle, ”It's clear there are some significant mental-health issues here and they play a role (in his criminal activity). When he's doing well, we don't hear from him."

Curran had said Jason Earle has a history of serious suicide attempts and self-harm, and has been receiving treatment in Her Majesty's Penitentiary. She said he is interested in following his psychologist's suggestion and going to an in-patient PTSD treatment program at a mental-health facility in Ontario when he's released from custody.

Although his son is an adult, Billy Earle noted, because of the mental-health issues he should have been notified that his son was going to be released.

“Someone has to be held accountable for this. This is a very serious matter. Do I want him incarcerated? No, but for the love of God I need to know if he’s going to be released so I can put something in place for him and go get him,” Billy Earle said. “I found out Friday afternoon about 5 p.m. when he was trying to get hold of me. He kept phoning me and phoning me and I finally answered my phone because I was really busy. He said he was at my house and I just couldn’t believe it.

“He was released with the red shirt he had on in court and a pair of sweat pants and sneakers, and freezing cold outside. He told the psychologist at (Her Majesty’s Penitentiary) days before that he was a ticking bomb, good one minute and not the next. On his release papers the box near suicide watch and suicide attempts are checked. How could he be released like that?

“I’m glad he came my way. What would have happened if he didn’t come my way? What if he walked down to the harbour and thought about jumping in? How did he get released when his bail was revoked in court? It is very overwhelming. I’m scared for his safety. He needs help inside the hospital system, not the prison system. This goes to show the help is not there inside the prison system.”

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