Lucus Morine came out west from Nova Scotia last summer to pan for gold. By fall, he was in jail awaiting trial.
On Friday, from the prisoner’s box, he gave his side of the story during his trial for three road-rage-type incidents with an axe in the Comox Valley.
“I’ve been waiting for this for five months,” he said.
The first two occurred on Oct. 26, 2021, while the third was two days later, when he was arrested after damaging a vehicle in a parking lot across from the RCMP detachment. In Courtenay Provincial Court, he faced three counts for weapons, three for mischief and two assault-related charges, including uttering threats.
Morine, 33, told the court he had come to Vancouver Island in part to put his past behind him, saying he had quit drinking after serving a federal sentence for an aggravated assault, then went to work as a geotechnical drill operator for six years. More recently, his grandfather passed away, which led to family strife. While he did not provide many details, he referred to in-fighting and family secrets coming out following the death.
“My intention was to come to the West Coast to start over,” he said.
With his dog and a few belongings, he arrived on Vancouver Island in August, living in his Honda Civic and, after meeting some people, a borrowed camper. He was setting up different camps in the Forbidden Plateau area so he could look for gold.
“I fancy myself somewhat of a gold prospector,” he said.
This was also why he kept an axe with him. It was at this time too, he said, friction started with a nearby gravel pit operation.
On the day of the first two incidents, he was travelling through Courtenay when he cut off a truck. He testified the driver came over and punched his window, then went back to his truck and took a picture of the Honda. At that point, Morine admitted to taking his axe to damage the truck’s mirrors before he fled the scene.
“That was essentially a road rage incident gone bad,” he said. “I took it to another level.”
Shortly after, he was in the vicinity of Condensory Road and Piercy Road when he saw a truck from the gravel operation. He also recognized the driver, who he believed had tampered with the gas line of his Honda. Morine said he took his axe and smashed the headlights and side window of the truck and trailer. He assumed he was going to jail for the first incident and figured he should stand up to the people from the gravel company he felt were threatening him over what he characterized as a land dispute.
At the same time, another vehicle drove by with three “white-haired” men he recognized who started yelling and swearing at him. One, he said, was the gravel company owner. Two days later, he wrongly assumed the same vehicle was in the parking lot of a coffee shop near the Comox Valley RCMP station, so he started damaging it, then tried to leave but was arrested and has been in custody since that time.
“I did not assault anyone,” he said. “I take full onus of the mischief.”
During cross-examination, Crown counsel Tim Morgan questioned Morine’s version of events, pointing out Morine owned no land that could be involved in any dispute and that people at the gravel company did not even know who he was. Morgan also cited evidence of alcohol in Morine’s vehicle at the time of arrest. He questioned Morine about not having been drinking, but also suggested the accused might have been trying to influence a judge, or “sweeten the pot” in Morine’s words, during a scheduled bail hearing last fall so he would be sent to alcohol rehabilitation rather than jail, which he described as his worst fear.
In final submissions, defence lawyer Eric Chesterley stressed his client had already pleaded guilty to the mischief charges and that other charges amounted to splitting the same incident or act into more than one offence.
Judge Catherine Crockett will give her decision during the week of April 11.