May 19th, 2024

Defence wraps case without witness in sex assault trial

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 18, 2021.


The lawyer for a Lethbridge man accused of sexually assaulting four women concluded his case Thursday, without hearing testimony from his only witness.
Andre Ouellette of Calgary chose not to call his witness to the stand Thursday, after the man said he didn’t want his name published by the media covering the sexual assault trial. The witness, who had been subpoened by defence to testify, said he was concerned about his reputation, and when asked by the clerk to state his name for the record, he said he would rather not identify himself.
Ouellette asked Judge Jerry LeGrandeur if he would consider issuing a publication ban prohibiting the media from using the man’s name, but LeGrandeur said the circumstances do not meet the criteria for a ban. However, he told Ouellette he could apply for the ban, but it would require advance notice to the Crown and media followed by an in-camera hearing, at which the media could argue against the application.
Without the man’s evidence, Ouellette must rely on his client’s testimony, which was heard this week in Lethbridge provincial court during direct examination by defence, and cross-examination by the Crown. During his testimony, the 35-year-old accused, Sohil Bindra, said his liaisons with the women were consensual, and he denied sexually assaulting them. At times while he was questioned by Crown Prosecutor Dawn Janecke, Sohil became evasive and tried to avoid giving direct answers. At one point the judge had to intervene and order him to co-operate.
During the trial, which began last month, one woman testified Bindra assaulted her in his vehicle in the Spring of 2018. Bindra is charged with sexual assault and administering a noxious substance in relation to the assault against the woman.
Another woman testified Bindra sexually assaulted her after he gave her and a friend a ride home from a bar in February of last year. He is charged with housebreaking and commit sexual assault, sexual assault, and administering a noxious substance in relation to that woman. He also faces sexual assault in relation to the woman’s friend who testified Bindra groped her after he gave her a ride home.
A fourth woman told court she was too drunk to drive home to Taber following a work Christmas party in December of 2018, and was sexually assaulted after Bindra allowed her to stay the night at his westside home.
Although Bindra said she was coming onto him, she testified she did not willingly allow him to have sex with her and told him not to.
Bindra is also scheduled to stand trial next month for similar charges against a fifth woman, and again in June for sex offences against a sixth woman.

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