The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has heard the case of Markeit Symonds, a Halifax man who is seeking a new trial after pleading guilty to pimping a 16-year-old girl.
Symonds, 21, appeared in court in Halifax on Tuesday and Wednesday. He claimed his former lawyer, Mark Bailey, gave him bad advice during the original proceedings.
During the two-day hearing, Symonds asked the panel of Justice Peter Bryson, Justice Jill Hamilton and Justice Cindy Bourgeois for his conviction to be set aside and a new trial.
Symonds met the girl in question at a Halifax group home in 2016. In March, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to procuring a person to offer or provide sexual services.
Luke Craggs, Symonds’ lawyer, argued Wednesday that Symonds’ sentence was a result of “ineffective representation” provided by Bailey.
“Mr. Bailey’s conduct was sloppy; he cut corners and took shortcuts instead of doing things properly,” Craggs said in court.
Craggs also argued that Bailey made multiple errors while representing Symonds, including not recording information, pocketing cash payments and confusing the charges.
During cross-examination, Bailey told the court he “absolutely (did) not” pocket any cash or provide misinformation.
Craggs said in court that Bailey lied under oath in order to “cover his tracks.”
Crown attorney Mark Scott argued it’s out of character for Bailey to behave in such a way. Scott told the court that it’s hard to believe that Bailey — an experienced criminal lawyer — would fail to explain the court system to his client.
Craggs argued that a “hollow guilty plea” was made on Symonds’ behalf without Symonds being clear of its implications. He said Symonds has a learning disability and ADHD.
Symonds’ prison sentence includes a mandatory 20-year sex offender registration and a lifelong weapons ban. Symonds said in court Tuesday that Bailey told him he would be granted parole in one year.
“At no point in time did Mr. Symonds ever convey to me or express to me disagreement that was being done on his behalf,” said Bailey during cross-examination.
Bailey said Symonds gave him firm instructions to plead guilty.
Symonds is serving his time at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick and was brought from prison to his hearing. Eight of his family members were in court to hear the appeal, including his mother and brother.
“Our family has never been in trouble before, so there was no way for us to know any better than not to trust Bailey,” said his mother, Yvonne Symonds, in an interview.
The appeal court has reserved its decision.