A Dartmouth, N.S., man was found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Thursday relating to incidents in the early 2000s.
Marcel C. Maessen, 67, was arrested and charged in April 2018 in relation to alleged incidents with a girl who was 10 or 11 at the time. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During the three-day trial in July, Maessen said he accidentally touched the young girl's breast while playing a game.
The complainant, a woman now in her 30s whose name is protected by a publication ban, alleged there was a pattern of incidents where Maessen touched her breasts over six months between 2000 and 2002.
Maessen coached youth basketball with the Dartmouth Lakers, but in 2018 police said the charges were not related to his coaching. Maessen was a relative of the complainant's friend.
Much of the trial focused around one particular incident that allegedly happened in the entryway of Maessen's home.
Several witnesses described a game Maessen used to play with the kids, where he would pick them up while they kept their elbows locked.
The complainant said Maessen, who is two metres tall, picked her up on this occasion and when he put her back down, she alleged he cupped her breasts.
Maessen told the court on this particular day that she slipped as he was putting her down and the touch was accidental.
He said he used that as a "teachable moment," telling the girl not to let anyone touch her there.
Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt: judge
Justice Joshua Arnold said in his ruling on Thursday that the physical manner in which Maessen described picking up the complainant "does not seem plausible ... the mechanics in the way he says he was holding her was overly complex."
Arnold noted that Maessen was not challenged on this point by either the defence or the Crown.
He also said the teachable moment did not sound plausible.
"Why would he need to give her some sort of parental type chat about accidental touching?" Arnold said, adding that it was unusual Maessen never mentioned this incident to the girl's parents.
But Arnold said that while he did not find Maessen to be "entirely credible given the critical event," the Crown had not proven to him beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty.
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