By Herald on November 23, 2020.
A Lethbridge massage therapist has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a female client two years ago.
Cyprien Mudenge sat impassively Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench as Madam Justice Johnna Kubik found him guilty of one count of sexual assault.
Although Kubik pointed out the accused must at first be presumed innocent, she said the Crown had proven its case and Mudenge’s testimony at trial was not believable, while the victim’s evidence was.
During his trial last month, Mudenge, 55, claimed he never touched the woman inappropriately during a massage Nov. 28, 2018.
The 36-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified, however, that Mudenge got too close to her breasts and touched her vagina and bottom during the massage. She said she felt violated, but admitted she allowed Mudenge to continue the massage for some time before she ended the session, just in case she was mistaken or the inappropriate contact was accidental.
“I was in shock and I was too scared to say anything,” the woman told court.
She finally ended the massage after Mudenge fully exposed her left buttock and touched her vagina beneath her underwear, she testified.
During his own testimony, Mudenge denied touching the woman inappropriately, and said she gave him permission when he needed to slide her underwear over slightly to massage her glutes and give her a “skin-on-skin” massage to better reach the piriformis muscle located deep in the buttocks. He said her body, except where he was specifically massaging, was always covered by a sheet, and he never massaged beneath her underwear.
When asked by his lawyer if he ever massaged the woman’s chest, or touched her inappropriately, he insisted, “no I did not.”
Lethbridge lawyer Greg White suggested during his closing arguments Oct. 28, that during the time between the massage and trial, the woman “mixed up details” of the incident and may have constructed certain memories. He said there were inconsistencies between her statements to police, comments made to other people at the massage clinic, and her testimony during a preliminary hearing. White said those inconsistencies indicate her testimony was unreliable, while Mudenge’s evidence was straightforward and believable.
Crown Prosecutor Ian Elford suggested otherwise.
“The evidence of the accused should not be believed,” he said.
He said Mudenge’s version of events does not coincide with the woman’s distraught condition afterward, and while Mudenge testified the woman was not crying following the massage, other Crown witnesses said she was crying and was visibly upset.
Elford also said some inconsistencies in evidence is common during a trial, especially when a considerable amount of time has elapsed since the offence. But those inconsistencies aren’t enough to question the complainant’s reliability or credibility.
Kubik agreed, and Monday said any inconsistencies in her testimony were only in relation to collateral evidence, such as the order in which Mudenge massaged certain muscles. Otherwise, Kubik said, the woman’s evidence was direct and credible, and her distraught condition afterward was clearly the result of being assaulted as she described.
Sentencing has been adjourned, and the matter returns to court Wednesday to determine whether defence wants the judge to order a pre-sentence report. White said his client would need time to process the verdict before deciding. Sentencing will then likely be adjourned to another date.
In the meantime, Mudenge remains under court-ordered release conditions, to which was added Monday that he surrender any passports he may have and not apply for a passport.