Charge against sex worker stayed after complainant's story falls apart during trial

·3 min read
The aggravated sexual assault trial of Anthony Lee Taylor, 31, ended abruptly Friday afternoon when the Crown directed a stay of proceedings. (Edmonton Police Service - image credit)
The aggravated sexual assault trial of Anthony Lee Taylor, 31, ended abruptly Friday afternoon when the Crown directed a stay of proceedings. (Edmonton Police Service - image credit)

An aggravated sexual assault trial has collapsed under the weight of conflicting stories from the complainant in the case.

Anthony Taylor, 31, was accused of knowingly infecting another man with HIV after having unprotected sex with him in December 2016.

The complainant, now 59, can only be identified by the initials JM.

For two days, JM was grilled in the witness box during cross-examination by Taylor's lawyer, Sarah Terry.

At the end of the first day, the jury was told that JM stormed into the courtroom and told the lawyers that he wanted the charges dismissed. Then he left the courthouse.

The judge issued a warrant to ensure JM would return to court on Friday morning.

After Terry wrapped up her blistering cross-examination on Friday, the Crown directed a stay of proceedings before calling any more witnesses.

JM was defiant on the witness stand when confronted with glaring discrepancies in his trial testimony compared to the differing versions he gave to health care professionals and police.

"You have at worst lied to everyone in these proceedings, or at best you have been significantly wrong in the evidence you have given to this court," Terry said. "I would suggest you are willing to say anything to convict Mr. Taylor."

JM replied, "No ma'am."

Terry suggested JM was ashamed and angry when he tested positive for HIV in early 2017 and began looking for someone to blame.

"You engaged in transactional sex and became infected with HIV," Terry said. "You went online and found someone who met the description of a black trans worker. You stalked them online, became obsessed until you were contacted by police."

JM said he totally disagreed with her theory. But he did admit he was ashamed and angry when he tested positive.

"I was feeling a great deal of shame, absolutely," JM told the jury of seven men and five women. "I am angry with myself for not making responsible choices and angry at myself for trusting anyone."

'I'm hoping he can move on'

After the Crown stayed the charge, Terry said, she gave Taylor a hug.

"I can't imagine the toll the whole proceeding has taken upon him," Terry said. "I think his privacy has been interfered with enough already and I'm hoping he can move on from this quickly and quietly."

When police announced the criminal charge against Taylor, they revealed that he was an HIV-positive sex worker, suggesting others may have had sex with him without knowing his medical status.

Taylor's lawyer suggested that police should have been more diligent about confirming the complainant's version of events before releasing the accused's private information.

"I think that they were privy to all of the issues that came out in cross-examination with this particular individual," Terry said. "While I'm sympathetic to his situation, I think that they should have reviewed that a lot more carefully before disseminating that information to the public."

She suggested that the collapse of the trial could have been avoided if the Crown had chosen to hold a preliminary hearing rather than proceeding by direct indictment.

Further than that, she believes cases like this have no place in the criminal justice system.

"These types of issues are a public health matter and should be treated as such," Terry said. "Putting people who are so marginalized as my client is, on many fronts, ... an affront."

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