Premier Dwight Ball said he sat down for an interview with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Sgt. Tom Warren on Oct. 8, 2015 out of civic duty, without knowing if it would mean anything for him politically.
At that point, he told The Telegram Tuesday, he didn’t even know if the information would be of use for the police, who were working to solve a murder — a man had been shot and killed five days earlier when he intervened in an armed robbery at the Captain’s Quarters hotel bar in St. John’s.
“I took this as my civic responsibility as a resident of this province and thinking about the family of Larry Wellman, the father, husband, who was really just, he was the real victim in all of this,” Ball said in a telephone interview.
“And so I did what any responsible person would do in our province, not knowing what the consequences would be (in the investigation). At that point I did what I felt I should do and I did what I felt was the right thing regardless of what was going on in my day-to-day life.”
Ball gave multiple media interviews Tuesday afternoon, as a new court order permitted the release for the first time of much of a police document used to obtain a warrant in the murder case, including information he provided.
Ball had told police the jacket worn by the man in their suspect photo could have been a jacket stolen from him. He told them about his daughter’s then-boyfriend, Brandon Phillips, and the young couple’s drug and money problems, and that it could be Phillips in the photo.
After further police investigation, Phillips, 29, was charged and ultimately convicted of second-degree murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 22.
Ball was not premier at the time he spoke with the police, but he was heading into a provincial general election as leader of the Opposition.
When asked Tuesday if he expected the information coming to light from the Phillips case to affect his political career, he spoke again about a feeling of obligation as an individual. Police were gathering information for the case from multiple sources. Ball said his daughter had gone to speak with the police before him, and both she and he went to volunteer information.
“My daughter’s an innocent person in all of this. The information that I provided wasn’t as premier, it wasn’t … even as leader of the Opposition at the time, it was clearly doing the role that I felt that I should do in the investigation in the death of Larry Wellman,” he said.
The now-public court document from police refers to unlawful VISA charges, and Ball’s daughter, Jade Ball, being harassed by a drug dealer for outstanding debts, including tens of thousands of dollars owed by Phillips.
According to the document, Jade Ball told the police that her father was also harassed for money.
Ball said it didn’t drive him to report, and he was open with the police.
Since he became premier in 2015, the provincial government has worked to address drug issues in the province on multiple fronts — availability of addictions treatment, responding to a dramatic spike in opioid deaths and the more recent debate on prescription monitoring, as examples.
Ball said any political policy or arguments he has made have been informed by personal but also professional experiences, with work as a pharmacist and over 30 years supporting families dealing with addictions.
“I think all of us are better served when politicians do not interfere with justice,” he said. “I have never interfered with justice. I have come fully transparent and I have come forward every step along the way here as an individual. And I did so on Oct. 8, keeping in mind that Mr. Wellman had lost his life, and felt it was my responsibility to bring that information.”