IAN HITCHEN/BRANDON SUN
The July 29, 2012, shooting occurred at this housing unit, which appears to be a duplex, located at CFB Shilo. The incident took place at the unit on the right in the picture.
CFB SHILO — A Shilo soldier has admitted that he shot a fellow soldier in the leg, but that has far from simplified his military court case.
His lawyer has mounted a constitutional challenge that could call into question the military court’s jurisdiction.
During a court martial on Tuesday, a military judge was told that Master Cpl. Clarence Joseph Stillman admitted to what he’d done shortly after the shooting.
"I shot a guy in the leg," Stillman said as he put his hands on his head and was arrested near the scene of the shooting by a military policeman.
Stillman, 41, is charged with aggravated assault and firearms-related charges and his court martial began on Tuesday at CFB Shilo before military judge Lt.-Col. J.G. Perron.
Prosecutor Steven Richards shared the following details of the early-morning July 29, 2012, shooting for the first time.
Stillman is a supply technician at CFB Shilo and had been transferred there from CFB Edmonton in July 2012, just a week before the shooting.
On the evening of July 28, 2012, he was at the junior ranks’ club at CFB Shilo, where he met Bombardier Shannon Trimm and Bombardier Garrett Cote, who shared a housing unit on base.
After drinking and socializing at the club until it closed, Trimm and Cote invited Stillman and others back to their home, where the party continued in the basement.
Gradually, the other guests left and Cote went to bed, and only Stillman and Trimm remained talking in the basement.
Trimm told Stillman about an argument he’d had with his girlfriend earlier in the day, and Trimm got upset when it appeared Stillman didn’t care.
Trimm repeatedly told Stillman to leave, but he didn’t.
When Trimm went upstairs to get Cote to help him eject the unwanted guest, Stillman appeared in the bedroom doorway with his chest "puffed out."
Believing Stillman wanted to fight, Trimm walked up and punched him in the head. Stillman reeled and Trimm punched him another 10 times.
Stillman finally left the residence, and Cote and Trimm went to the main floor to watch TV.
Stillman, meanwhile, walked back to his own home on base where he loaded a .45-calibre semi-automatic pistol and then returned to the home of Trimm and Cote.
Shortly before 6 a.m., he entered without knocking and stood just inside the doorway, where he could be seen by Trimm and Cote.
Seeing the cuts and bruises left by the beating he’d delivered, Trimm apologized to Stillman who asked for his cellphone that he’d left in the basement.
Trimm got the broken phone — Trimm had thrown it earlier — and gave it to Stillman, who turned to leave, but then stated: "Oh, yeah."
Stillman pulled the gun out of his waistband, turned and fired a shot at Trimm. The bullet entered Trimm’s thigh and exited his calf.
As Stillman walked away from the home, he turned in the street and fired a shot at Cote, who stood on his front step about 30 to 40 metres away.
The bullet narrowly missed Cote, passed through the front door of the home and would later be found in a closet.
Cote and neighbours called 911 and an MP arrested Stillman in the street nearby. The shooter was found near the gun, which he’d tossed onto the ground, and he had bullets in his pocket.
Another MP entered Trimm’s home to find him receiving first aid from another soldier, his neighbour. The wounded man was then sent to Brandon hospital for emergency treatment.
Stillman pleaded not guilty to all charges on Tuesday, but nevertheless admitted the above facts and his lawyer didn’t present evidence. Rather, defence lawyer Maj. Phillipe-Luc Boutin has mounted a constitutional argument that effectively calls for the charges to be dismissed.
In outline, Boutin argued that Section 130 of the National Defence Act — which allows Criminal Code charges to be prosecuted under the military justice system — is too broad relative to the objectives of the Act and it amounts to a breach under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically Section 7.
The prosecution and defence have both rested their case, and Perron is expected to reach a decision on the constitutional issue, and his verdict in the trial itself, this morning.
Under these circumstances, the firearms offences against Stillman carry mandatory minimum prison terms that range from one to five years.
After Tuesday’s proceedings, Richards explained that the defence seeks the section of the NDA to be declared unconstitutional, which would mean the charges would be effectively dismissed as the military court wouldn’t have jurisdiction.
Richards said part of the defence argument is that the NDA section in question could allow the laying of charges that have little to do with maintenance of military discipline, efficiency and morale.
One of the ideas behind a separate military justice system is to allow the Canadian Forces to enforce discipline quickly to maintain a state of readiness.
On the other hand, as prosecutor, Richards argues that Section 130 of the NDA is constitutional.
Even if it’s not, Richards said, the charges don’t have to be dismissed and there are other solutions such as adjustments in language.
Similar defence motions in four other courts martial have already been heard and dismissed, Richards said, although two of those cases are now before the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.
Perron himself denied one of those motions.
Richards noted that Stillman’s choice to enter not guilty pleas — even though he admits the facts — will preserve his right to appeal on the constitutional argument.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 23, 2013