KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) _ The stony, expressionless mask obscuring the fragile mental state of embattled TV personality Tony Rosato slipped briefly in an Ontario courtroom Wednesday when the former "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live" cast member loudly accused his lawyer of putting his life in danger.
With his elderly mother, Maria, sitting near the prisoner’s docket where Rosato _ who faces a charge of criminal harassment _ has been sitting, the actor and comedian interrupted the trial by raising his hand to get the attention of defence lawyer Daniel Brodsky.
When Brodsky leaned into the prisoner’s box, Rosato, 53, asked, "Are you trying to get me murdered?"
It wasn’t immediately clear what a visibly puzzled Brodsky had done to agitate his client. "Someone’s trying to murder me in this room," Rosato continued.
Rosato has been diagnosed with Capgras’s syndrome _ a rare mental disorder characterized by the irrational delusion that a loved one has been replaced by impostors, which is precisely what the actor believes has happened to his estranged wife and daughter.
The actor, who was raised in an Italian-Catholic family, has also taken to carrying a folder emblazoned with the Star of David, a Jewish symbol. As police led a handcuffed and shackled Rosato into the Kingston, Ont. courthouse this week, he told reporters he carried the folder because he is a "good Jewish boy."
Brodsky refused to draw any correlation between Rosato’s outburst and his client’s mental condition.
But, when court resumed Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious Brodsky was less willing to acknowledge his client’s repeated efforts to get his attention by raising his hand like a pupil answering a question in class.
Wednesday’s bizarre episode capped off an unusual morning in which the judge presiding over Rosato’s trial admonished both lawyers for what he apparently considers a lack of civility.
Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson asked the lawyers to review four pages of professional behaviour guidelines during the first morning break.
"Let’s play by the rules here," Thomson told the lawyers. "This is not jungle court. This is a court of law."
The document outlines more than a dozen basic rules of conduct, including avoiding "making faces, audible comments, gesticulations or other body language," not "bickering" with an opposing lawyer, and "failing to properly control a witness or client."
Brodsky has repeatedly complained that assistant Crown attorney Priscilla Christie has not returned his phone calls and messages.
The remainder of Wednesday afternoon was largely spent trying to locate a missing document, which delayed the proceedings by nearly an hour and a half.
The lengthy afternoon delay was characteristic of a trial that has thus far been bogged down in procedural matters, mostly involving a set of absent transcripts from earlier hearings.
Thompson, who at times appears frustrated by the dispute between the two lawyers, said the court doesn’t need any more delays.
Rosato has been held without bail for more than two years on a charge of allegedly harassing his estranged 30-year-old wife, Leah.
Outside the courtroom, Rosato’s mother Maria sat on a stiff wooden bench eating a lunch of peaches and cookies made of spinach and corn flour.
As her son was led back into the courtroom after a break, she offered him a peach. When he politely declined the fruit, she offered it to a Kingston police officer escorting him, who also declined.
When asked during a moment of quiet how she was coping with the trial, she slumped on the bench and paused for a moment.
"It’s breaking my heart," she said.