Alleged kidnapper released on bail

·3 min read

A Fort St. John man charged with robbery and kidnapping was granted bail Monday on court orders to attend rehab.

David James Cornell, 34, is accused of assaulting and abducting a man in Charlie Lake on Sept. 13 of this year. He appeared by video from jail in Prince George, and will be moved to New Vision Supportive Housing in Surrey to attend drug rehab.

“There’s a small amount of space here for Mr. Cornell to be released, but only under very strict circumstances and that’s to go to the residential treatment place and stay there,” said Judge Oliver Fleck.

It’s alleged that Cornell, and co-accused Andrew Evan Hall, 39, went to the victim’s home and offered him drugs. After the man refused, the pair allegedly punched him, with Cornell striking him in the shoulder with an axe. They then tied the victim's hands and feet, and stuffed him into the backseat of a pickup truck, court heard.

It’s alleged Cornell took the man’s wallet, car keys, and cell phone, and drove the victim’s vehicle around town while he was tied up in the back. Cornell allegedly threatened to shoot the man if he did not co-operate, court heard.

The man was later able to escape with a broken hand and several bruises on his face, and called RCMP from Save-On Foods in Fort St. John, providing the name of DJ and Andrew as his attackers, court heard.

Cornell fled to Grande Prairie before being arrested, where the victim’s vehicle and ID were found at a hotel, along with a shotgun.

Cornell has prior convictions from 2015 for drug trafficking, assault with a weapon, as well as break and enter. He was acquitted of child sex exploitation charges in April.

Crown prosecutor Jeremy Fung argued to keep Cornell in custody, citing his long criminal history, and a failure to attend rehab.

“He’s already had the opportunity to enter into rehabilitation following his acquittal, he did not do so,” said Fung. “Crown’s submission is that he’s not a suitable candidate for bail.”

Cornell’s defence lawyer, Dustin Gagnon, said his client’s failure to attend rehab was a result of discrimination due to the acquitted charges being a sex crime, and said the recent charges were drug motivated.

“He applied to multiple facilities, but was denied because of the nature of his charges,” said Gagnon.

Gagnon said the criminal record is not in dispute, but said there’s little proof Cornell committed the kidnapping, other than being known to police.

“It’s the police officers who drew the conclusion that this is David Cornell,” said Gagnon.

Fleck cited case law in ordering Cornell's release.

"There’s no suggestion here that Mr. Cornell is in a reverse onus situation, thus under the law, the presumption is release unless Crown shows otherwise," Fleck said.

"Given the very lengthy criminal record and the extremely serious charges Mr. Cornell faces, he’s very, very close to a detention order."

Cornell has not entered a plea, and will attend rehab until trial can be arranged for the charges.

Both he and Hall will appear next in court on Nov. 23. Hall is not in custody.

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News