October 21st, 2020

Final arguments made in sexual assault trial


By Shurtz, Delon on November 14, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 51-year-old Raymond man who sexually assaulted three underage girls when he was a youth more than three decades ago, did not assault them after he became an adult, his lawyer said Wednesday at the conclusion of the man’s trial in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench.

The accused, who can’t be named under a court-ordered publication ban, was convicted last June of sexually assaulting the girls when he was a youth, and sentenced to 60 days in jail, to be served on weekends. The man admitted he assaulted the girls, but he denies their allegations that he continued the assaults after he turned 18.

He is facing three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference in relation to the three girls, who are now grown women. An additional charge of sexual assault was dismissed Wednesday on the recommendation of the Crown.

Two of the women claim the accused assaulted them after he turned 18 in August 1986, but before he left on a two-year mission for his church in 1987. The third woman claims he assaulted her between 1989 and 1993 after he returned home from his mission.

Bissett told the judge his client admits he continued to abuse one of the women up to a dozen times after he turned 18, over a period of about six months, but he never abused the other two at all. He said the two women who claim they were assaulted when the accused was 18 are confused about the dates of the assaults, which actually occurred when the accused was a youth, not an adult.

The third woman, Bissett suggested, simply offered unreliable evidence during her testimony earlier in the trial, and while she may not have intentionally lied in court, her evidence was laced with creeping narrative – adding new details not heard before – fabrications and reconstruction; the result of trying to remember what happened more than 30 years ago when she was a child.

“This is a reconstruction, not an actual memory,” Bissett said.

Bissett said there are too many inconsistencies in her testimony, and many of her accounts of what happened simply couldn’t have occurred. He also suggested there was some collusion among the women – likely unintentional – since they discussed with each other the details of the assaults and how they were impacted by them.

Bissett invited the judge to convict his client on his admitted assaults against only one of the women, but said there is reasonable doubt the assaults occurred against the two other women, and urged those charges be dismissed.

Crown prosecutor Erin Olsen took issue with Bissett’s assertion the women collaborated among each other, and said they each provided their own evidence to support their allegations. She said talking about the effects of their abuse did not lead to collusion, and any similarities in their evidence is because their lives at the time were similar to each other and the assaults were similar, as well.

Olsen also discredited Bissett’s accusations of creeping narrative and implied lying, and said the evidence of the woman who claims she was abused after 1989 was honest and fair.

Justice Kubik has reserved her decision until next month.

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