Recorded by devices secretly planted in Dustin Etheridge’s home by police, the conversation among the three men was wide-ranging. Tastes in music. Expensive champagne. Prince Harry’s upcoming wedding to Meghan Markle.
Etheridge and two of his friends — alleged to be John Squires and Brandon Glasco — chatted over the background of a meowing cat, the popping and clicking sounds of what police believe to be the loading of a magazine into a firearm, and an apparent YouTube tutorial on how to clean and load a gun.
“You gotta look normal walking down the road,” Etheridge is heard saying.
“That’s what I’m saying,” replied one of his buddies, followed by something almost unintelligible amid the noise.
Playing the recorded conversation in a St. John’s courtroom Wednesday, prosecutor Lloyd Strickland stopped it at that point, then addressed RNC Sgt. Chris Hussey in the witness box.
“Do you recognize who said that last part?” Strickland asked.
“Yes, it sounded like Brandon Glasco,” Hussey answered.
“What did you hear him say?” the prosecutor continued.
Etheridge, 28, was the focus of the recordings, but is not the subject of the trial happening at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, since he has already pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to murder, a weapons offence and drug trafficking charges, and will be sentenced later this month.
Twenty-one-year-old Glasco, 36-year-old Squires and another man, Shane Clarke, 26, have pleaded not guilty to participating in the murder plot.
The four men are alleged to have planned to murder another man, Bradley Summers, in May 2018. They were arrested after members of a joint RNC/RCMP drug team obtained authorization to intercept Etheridge’s phone calls and texts and to plant the hidden recording devices as part of a drug trafficking investigation.
In mid-May, investigators say, they caught the men talking about calibres of firearms and got the sense that something else was about to go down. They tracked Etheridge and Summers throughout the day on May 16 and executed a takedown that evening.
“(They) arrested Dustin Etheridge and John Squires a relatively short distance away on the very same street as Brad Summers,” Strickland said in his opening remarks. “Upon arrest, the officers discovered that John Squires had a loaded firearm on his person.”
Squires pleaded guilty to three firearm offences at the start of trial.
Glasco and Clarke were arrested three months after the alleged murder plot. In addition to murder conspiracy, Glasco and Clarke have been charged with cocaine trafficking-related offences, while Glasco’s indictment includes weapons offences as well.
Wednesday was the second day of proceedings and the second day the court has heard the recordings — of which there are more than 100 in total. Some of them were captured by the hidden devices in Etheridge’s home, while others were intercepted phone calls.
“Is Brad Summers causing you problems?” Etheridge asked a woman on the phone. “Is he showing up at your house? Do you want me to deal with him? Get him to meet you at a parking lot and he won’t be heard from again.”
Some of the recordings were garbled or include conversations seemingly in code, alleging to give insight into the men obtaining a car, guns and gloves.
“This is going down tonight,” Etheridge is heard saying to Glasco at one point.
“Just let me go up and talk to him for a few seconds,” Glasco’s voice is heard saying at another time. “I’ll just tell him to give me one second and I’ll walk back in the house and she’ll be walking back in, and that’s when you walk up, right? Boom, boom.”
At one point, Glasco is heard saying he has butterflies in his stomach.
“No fun just doing the same shit every day, man,” Etheridge responded. “You gotta add some excitement.”
The Crown is expected to call a total of 17 witnesses to testify over the next couple of weeks, 15 of them police officers. After that it will be up to defence lawyers Derek Hogan, Tony St. George and Jon Noonan to call witnesses.
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