The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger testified Tuesday in Supreme Court that she initiated, and consented to, all sexual acts between them.
Const. Doug Snelgrove, 43, who has been suspended without pay since his arrest in 2015, said on the night of December 21, 2014, he had been on patrol in downtown St. John's.
Prompted by his attorney, Randy Piercey, Snelgrove laid out an account that detailed his first meeting with the complainant, then 21.
It was just before three in the morning, Snelgrove said, composed and gesturing loosely from the witness box. He had just begun filling out a report from his parked squad car on Water Street in downtown St. John's when the complainant approached.
"She attempted to open the front [passenger] door, which was locked," he told the court. "I rolled down my window, and she asked me if I could give her a ride home."
Snelgrove says he denied her request multiple times before relenting, letting her into the back seat. He slid open the divider to hear her better, and they chatted, he said, adding that at no point did he believe she was intoxicated. According to Snelgrove, the only hint she'd been drinking was the "faint smell of alcohol" on her breath.
During the ride, Snelgrove said the woman — whose identity is protected by a mandatory publication ban — mentioned she found him attractive. He replied that "she was cute or pretty, something to that effect," he said.
Outside the woman's home, she got out. Snelgrove remained outside her apartment to complete his report, he said. Five minutes later, she returned and said she couldn't find her keys.
Snelgrove says he asked if she wanted a drive elsewhere, but the woman insisted on staying. He found a basement window and pushed it open.
"I just wanted to really get rid of her," he told the court, which is sitting at the former Newfoundland School for the Deaf to allow for greater physical distancing for trial participants and the jury.
Complainant initiated sex: Snelgrove
As she climbed through the window, Snelgrove testified that he intended to leave.
"I said, 'OK, you're home, see ya later,'" he told the court, mimicking an exasperated tone. "She said, 'Hold on a second.' Next thing I know she's coming to the door in her apartment … she opened the door and asked me to come in."
When asked why he entered her home, Snelgrove said he did not know.
Once inside, he closed the kitchen window, then attempted to leave, he said. "I basically said to myself, I'm just going to go, there's no reason for me to be here," he said before a jury hearing the case.
"As I walked toward her apartment exit, [the woman] stepped in front of me and started to kiss me."
Snelgrove said he did nothing to encourage her, and also harboured no concerns with her level of intoxication.
She removed all of her clothes, he said, until she was "completely naked."
"Then she started to unclip my belt. Which is a little difficult…so I did that part for her," he said, his voice shaking. "She lowered my pants down to the bottom of my legs and started to perform oral sex on me."
Snelgrove testified the woman then led him to the loveseat while still on her knees, where they had vaginal intercourse.
"I asked [the woman] what she liked and her response to me was, 'anything,'" he said. "I asked her if she would have anal sex. She nodded her head and said yes."
The woman was engaged and "fully aware" of everything that was going on, he added.
When he finished he dressed in the bathroom and left.
"I was upset. Like I am now," he said, his voice trembling. "I think about my wife and what I've done."
Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland pressed Snelgrove on his perception of her sobriety, asking whether he had been trained to detect intoxication in impaired drivers. Snelgrove said that he had, but insisted the woman did not display those signs.
One other witness testified Monday that the woman "seemed fine" that night. Multiple other witnesses, one of whom said he spoke to the woman just before entering her apartment, contradicted that, instead describing the woman as noticeably drunk — slurring her words, tripping, and speaking in short, choppy sentences.
The complainant testified last week that she had had at least six drinks that night, and could not remember giving consent.
Stickland also accused Snelgrove of expecting sexual activity, and indicated a discrepancy between Snelgrove's testimony that he wanted to "get rid" of the complainant and his willingness to enter her apartment.
"No, Mr. Strickland, I didn't expect anything," Snelgrove said.
"Well, you didn't expect her to cook you a meal, did you?" Strickland retorted. "It was 3 o'clock in the morning."
Prosecutors also pointed out the height difference between them indicated the officer would have needed to bend his neck for the complainant to kiss him. "Not necessarily," Snelgrove replied. "She could tippy-toe."
Snelgrove testified that he did not notify headquarters he had a passenger in his vehicle. The Crown has attempted to argue that Snelgrove was aware of this policy and chose not to follow it.
"For an officer who otherwise seems so careful about following procedure it seems odd for you," Strickland said. "I'm saying it's out of character."
"It wasn't a police task, it wasn't a call … she wasn't detained. There was no reason to [call in]," Snelgrove responded.
"You didn't call in [because] you saw that there might be an opportunity with this woman," Strickland suggested.
"No," Snelgrove answered firmly. "That is not the case."
This is the second time both the complainant and the defendant have given testimony in this case. The initial verdict in 2017 was overturned.
Testimony continues this week.