Sussex man arrested with stolen jewelry found guilty of break-in

A man found by police in Sussex with bags of stolen property and a sawed-off shotgun argued they were given to him to deliver, but a judge didn't buy that.

Justin Russell Muir, 38, of Harmer Road in Belleisle Creek, was found guilty Monday, June 10, on six charges including break and enter and possession of a sawed-off .22 rifle in Saint John Provincial Court. Muir stood trial May 17 after being arrested in January following reports of a break-in at a Lansdowne Avenue residence on Jan. 7.

Muir was also charged with being unlawfully in a dwelling on Dec. 6 and break and enter and possession of stolen property related to Dec. 25 on Pitt Street, but those charges were dropped on the day of his trial. The same day, Muir pleaded guilty to a charge of assault dated to Dec. 25, with sentencing on all remaining charges to be handled June 25.

In delivering his decision, Judge W. Andrew LeMesurier said that Maureen Moore, a homeowner on Lansdowne Avenue, testified that she had come home from a trip on Jan. 7 and "quickly realized her home had been broken into," with personal items including jewelry, prescriptions, a cellphone and alcohol missing. She reported the theft, and said she saw footprints in the snow leaving her home.

An RCMP officer named Cst. Lebouthillier responded to the call, according to LeMesurier. He was then dispatched to a call of a second break and enter, where he also saw footprints in the snow, court heard.

LeBouthillier testified that when he had investigated the Pitt Street break-ins, he had recovered stolen property at a home on the same street, the judge said. Court heard that the officer went there and found footprints in the snow again, and a witness then told the officer that a man had come back to the home and left when he saw the police car.

LeMesurier said that the officer quickly found Muir and arrested the man, who was found with two bags containing some of the items that had gone missing, as well as the gun and drugs.

A second officer, Cst. Paul Gould, testified that after Muir was taken to the detachment, a can of bear spray was left on the seat where he had been sitting in the police car, according to LeMesurier.

Muir had testified, saying he was staying with a friend and had no fixed address, according to LeMesurier. He told the court he had met a man at a Tim Hortons who asked him to deliver the two bags to a location, and he was unaware of the contents when he had been stopped, the judge said. He denied his involvement in the break and enter.

LeMesurier noted that Muir never offered that explanation to police at the time, and he didn't find the explanation "reasonable." He said that the doctrine of "recent possession" allowed him to assume that he would have known that the property was stolen, and failing that, willful blindness would have been at play, because he failed to make inquiries about the bags.

"This court infers that these items had been recently stolen from the Moore residence and the accused had no reasonable explanation, in my view, for being in possession thereof. I infer he stole those items from the Moore residence," the judge said.

The judge convicted him on all six charges, which also included possession of prohibited bear spray, possession of stolen property, breach of probation and breach of a 10-year firearms ban.

The Crown is seeking a four-year sentence, according to prosecutor Tom Walsh. Defence lawyer Justin Gulliver said there was no joint agreement on a sentence, and LeMesurier scheduled sentencing for June 25.

After the decision, Muir wanted to speak to the judge, saying "what was said was wrong," but LeMesurier said it was his decision, and directed him to speak to his lawyer.

Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal