Ex-Norman Wells mayor Nathan Watson, who became a wanted man for more than two months after he failed to appear in court for sentencing on a drug conviction, apologized Tuesday for the “disrespect,” he showed the courts.
“There’s really no excuse,” said Watson, standing to address Judge Garth Malakoe.
Malakoe issued an arrest warrant for Watson on May 10 after the 49-year-old didn’t show up to his sentencing hearing. Watson, who served as mayor of Norman Wells from 2015 to 2017, was convicted after trial in January of possessing cocaine. Watson was pulled over by Norman Wells RCMP in October 2017 after he failed to stop at a stop sign. Officers located two bags of cocaine in Watson’s jacket, each weighing about one-and-a-half grams.
Watson’s arrest warrant remained outstanding until July 20 – more than 70 days later – when he was arrested in Norman Wells following a tip from the public.
Watson spent three days in jail before being released.
In court on Aug. 6, he pleaded guilty to a fresh charge of failing to appear, stemming from the May 10 no-show at court.
“He was required to be before the courts and had many opportunities to do so,” said prosecutor Levi Karpa.
Karpa joined Watson’s lawyer Baljindar Rattan in recommending a $2,000 fine for the cocaine conviction and a four-day custodial sentence for failing to appear in court.
With credit for time spent in remand custody – one-and-a-half days for every one day – the sentence amounted to time served for Watson, meaning he doesn’t have to serve any more time behind bars.
With only a dated drug possession conviction from 1990 on his record, Watson had never spent time in jail, something Malakoe said would have been a “new experience” that would “certainly have a deterrent effect,” on him in the future.
Malakoe gave Watson nine months to pay the fine.
Town lawsuit still looms
“It’s a giant relief, of course,” Watson told reports outside the Yellowknife courthouse following Tuesday’s sentencing.
While his criminal charges have been resolved, Watson is named in a lawsuit filed by the Town of Norman Wells.
The lawsuit alleges Catherine Mallon, the former senior administrative officer of Norman Wells, defrauded the town out of $1.2 million, and that Watson – who was mayor at the time – was involved in the alleged illegal activity.
Watson said the criminal case and the ongoing lawsuit shouldn’t be conflated.
“One would hope, in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have any bearing on each other … they’re completely separate.”
Watson told Yellowknifer he’s filed an early response to the lawsuit, but that he’s still working on submitting a statement of defence.