Peter Nygard has been given what no other inmate at Manitoba’s Headingley Correctional Centre has access to: a phone in his cell that he can use 16 hours a day.
The 79-year-old fashion designer also has a TV, a plastic chair and two mattresses that he uses for his back issues, according to court documents filed in his bail appeal.
In an affidavit, Todd Schreyer, assistant superintendent of security at Headingley Correctional Centre, says Nygard has been given a phone in his cell, which he is allowed to access 16 hours a day.
“Mr. Nygard has phone access from 0700 hours to 2300 hours daily. No other cell at HCC has similar phone access,” said Schreyer. “Due to Mr. Nygard’s request for constant contact with his legal team, this is the only location at which we can accommodate him and ensure his safety due to the high profile nature of his case.”
Schreyer says Nygard’s cell is large enough to accommodate three inmates and bigger than the cells in the general population block. He also has two mattresses, “which he uses to help with his back issues and sleeping issues maintaining what he claims is a 45 degree angle to sleep.”
Nygard was also moved so he didn’t have to climb stairs to get to the medical or shower areas.
Nygard was arrested Dec. 14 on a number of charges filed in a Southern District of New York court, including sex trafficking and racketeering. He spent two weeks at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, then was transferred to Headingley Correctional Centre, just outside of Winnipeg, where he remains while he awaits extradition to the U.S.
Last month, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg denied him bail, in part because she was concerned with witness tampering if he were to be released.
Nygard’s bail appeal will be heard in the Manitoba Court of Appeal by Justice Jennifer Pfuetzner on Thursday morning. Nygard will not appear in person, but will be able to call in by phone.
Advocate questions phone access
Crystal Brown, a community justice development co-ordinator at Southern Chiefs Organization, which includes 34 First Nations, was frustrated to learn about the accommodations Nygard is afforded behind bars.
She said having phone access 16 hours a day shows the different treatment Nygard is getting compared to others in jail.
“It brings forward the different justice systems that are available for Indigenous people, people of colour,” she said.
“This is treatment that other inmates obviously aren’t receiving. It looks like he’s having a decent experience,” she said. “It doesn’t sound from the affidavit that he’s experiencing a lot of discomfort.”
Schreyer says Nygard is in a protective custody unit at Headingley and whenever he needs to use the showers or go to the medical unit, the area is locked down in order to ensure his safety.
“There might be inmates in a holding cell, however when Mr. Nygard enters medical he goes directly to the treatment room or the shower room. He does not mix with other inmates,” writes Schreyer.
He says Nygard sees the medical team on a daily basis when they do their rounds, and that he also bathes in the medical unit because of the walk-in style tub. Schreyer says at no point has Nygard been relocated to a medical cell.
Nygard opts out of vegan diet
In an affidavit filed before his January bail hearing, Nygard said he’s not getting proper nutrition because he’s allergic to sugar and he said that 70 per cent of the food served in jail contains sugar and white carbs.
Schreyer said in order to address Nygard’s dietary concerns, he was placed on a vegan diet, but that he opted out of it on Jan. 29 “with a preference to be placed on the regular dietary plan.”
Nygard is now receiving a diabetic tray for meal service and is also able to order canteen items and food weekly at his own discretion, according to court filings.
Schreyer’s affidavit says Nygard was offered a placement at Assiniboine Treatment Centre — a protective custody unit that houses inmates convicted of or charged with sexual offences — on Jan. 21, but he declined.
“During this review it was noted that Mr. Nygard did not appear to be in distress. Mr. Nygard was co-operative and engaged in the conversation and thanked us for the excellent treatment he has been receiving,” said Schreyer.
He said that as of March 8, there were no positive cases of COVID-19 at Headingley.
RCMP seek recordings of Nygard’s calls
An affidavit written by RCMP Sgt. Lance Goldau, which was also filed in the bail appeal, says Mounties spoke with one of Nygard’s daughters in March after she had been contacted by her dad.
Police said the 20-year-old woman learned Nygard was her father later in life, and that he had brought her to Canada from the Bahamas to work for his company and look after his sister.
CBC News is not naming the daughter because it’s not clear if she is an alleged victim.
The woman told police she hadn’t spoken to Nygard since April 2020, and that he didn’t even know her age.
Goldau says the daughter told Mounties one of Nygard’s former girlfriends contacted her in the second week of January to say Nygard wanted to speak with her. The former girlfriend said Nygard wanted his daughter to be his surety to help him get bail.
The daughter gave permission for Nygard to phone her from Headingley the following day.
“They spoke multiple times over a period of several days,” said Goldau’s affidavit.
Goldeau wrote that in exchange for acting as his surety, Nygard told his daughter he would sign his “million-dollar” home to her.
“Nygard also told [his daughter] that, once out of prison, he would sign an affidavit acknowledging he was her father, in order to help her obtain Canadian citizenship,” said Goldau.
“I would have a home, a place to live as well as I could possibly sell it and um, you know, use it for school or use it what ev’, for you know, have a good life set out for me,” said Nygard’s daughter in the transcript.
The affidavit says Nygard also told his daughter she’d have to sign a document “stating that she believed in his innocence.”
Goldau says the daughter declined, in part because she believed sureties had to be Canadian citizens.
“He told me that you know, as a surety I would just have to make sure that he didn’t leave the house and that I would probably have to spend about two to three hours taking care of him. And I told him I didn’t want to do that because I have a life,” the woman told police, according to a transcript of the interview.
RCMP say they contacted Headingley prison to ask that they preserve any recordings between Nygard and his daughter until police could get a production order to obtain them.
Evidence against Nygard
Extradition documents filed by American authorities say the FBI, the New York Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have been investigating Nygard “and others” since September 2019.
They also provide a glimpse into some of the evidence U.S. prosecutors expect to present at Nygard’s trial if he is extradited, including a 23-page document written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Nichols.
“Nygard texted Coconspirator-3 ‘I don’t want any other men in [Victim-2]’s life … we can make her into another [Female-11],’ referring to a former ‘girlfriend’ of Nygard’s. Co-conspirator replied in part ‘for sure,'” wrote Nichols.
Nichols said authorities obtained numerous search warrants to produce evidence to back up witness testimony, like the emails between Nygard and a modelling agent authorities dubbed “Co-conspirator-6,” who they say funnelled women and girls to the fashion designer under the pretense of modelling jobs.
“PEOPLE IN MY LIFE ALWAYS Benefit IF & when they provide real benefit — had you delivered a ‘NICE ANGEL’ — there of course would have been good benefit,” Nichols said Nygard wrote to the modelling agent.
She says authorities also have evidence that will show Nygard’s employees were aware of the allegations.
“For example, a 2003 email from a longtime company employee (‘Employee-3’) to Nygard forwarded a resignation letter from a Bahamian employee, who wrote in part, ‘I’ve seen so many young girls coming here and having sex and alot of of [sic] them are under age that is not right,'” wrote Nichols.