ANTIGONISH: Two former StFX students were acquitted of sexually assaulting another student in Nova Scotia Supreme Court last week.
Jonah Williams, 21, and Tyler Ball, 20, played defensive back for the X-Men football team when they were accused of sexually assaulting a classmate at a party in Cameron Hall in November 2017.
Justice Timothy Gabriel’s not-guilty verdicts issued on November 27 were greeted with emotion, ending a trial highlighted by intimate details of the sexual encounter that was analyzed during prolonged cross-examination of the female accuser.
On November 17, 2017, there was an evening social called the “Catalina wine-mixer” and during the night, Williams and the woman started dancing, and after a while, they went back to his dorm room where they began to engage in consensual sex.
In her testimony, the complainant said she didn’t want to have sex that night. Over the next 45-minutes to an hour, the two were interrupted multiple times by people coming into the room to refill their beverages.
When his roommate and three other men came into the room, Williams joked about engaging in a “sixsome.” Williams testified after making the joke, he asked the woman if she would be interested in a threesome, however, the woman testified that conversation didn’t happen.
In another interruption, Ball returned to the room and Williams inquired again about a threesome and the three ended up performing sex acts on each other.
During her testimony, the woman established she was quite drunk, her speech was slurred and she had consumed a marijuana-infused brownie.
Although she doesn’t remember it, the woman was checked on twice by Residence Assistants (RAs) who were patrolling the night of the party and she told them she was “fine” and she “wanted to be there.”
The RA testified that if she felt the girl was really intoxicated, she would have made her leave the room. Moreover, she would have done the same if she had appeared uncomfortable about the situation, or said that she was.
Gabriel said the clear, coherent and consistent testimony from the RA was something to which he attached a great deal of weight, as unique among witnesses, she was completely sober.
With respect to the complainant, the judge said it is accurate to observe her evidence was, at times, incomplete and spotty. Gabriel was struck by how well the woman remembered certain events of the evening but he contrasted that with how little she claimed to retain from the time the four other men entered the room for the rest of the night.
He described some of the woman’s testimony as evasive and explained her testimony during the trial was contradicted by evidence she provided during the preliminary inquiry.
“To put it baldly, I have easily been left in reasonable doubt that the Crown has proven that [the complainant] did not consent to the threesome activities, whatever they actually were.”
Following Gabriel’s decision, Crown prosecutor Alicia Kennedy told reporters outside the courthouse it was a disappointing outcome for the complainant but she showed incredible bravery.
“When the judge finished reading his verdict, the complainant collapsed in the courtroom,” she said. “She has explained something that happened to her that was very difficult and traumatic, and then, in a sense, she’s had that reality denied.”
Kennedy said the judge found reasonable doubt, based on credibility and reliability findings, as to whether or not there was consent.
“She was subject to cross examination that was prolonged; it was about graphic details of her personal life,” she said. “She is a very brave, brave young woman.”