Former SMU groundskeeper found not guilty of sexual assault

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Former SMU groundskeeper testifyies in own defence at sex assault trial

A former Saint Mary's University groundskeeper accused of sexually assaulting four women has been found not guilty in one of those cases. 

On Friday, a provincial court judge acquitted Matthew Percy, 35, of sexual assault, choking to overcome resistance and voyeurism — for recording video of the encounter with his iPhone. The charges stemmed from a Sept. 3, 2017 incident involving a young woman who was a student at the university.

Percy was dressed in grey as he entered the courtroom to hear Judge Bill Digby's verdict.

Digby told the court that the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman did not consent. 

Before he read the verdict, the judge said,"I acknowledge that [the complainant] is of the belief that she was sexually assaulted." 

But Digby also said that contradictions and gaps in her memory were troubling. He said it was impossible to say that Percy was lying when he testified that she consented to sex. 

Three other sexual assault complaints against Percy are being dealt with in separate trials. The identities of all the women are protected by a publication ban. 

Percy remains in custody. 

Video doesn't tell full story, says Crown

Percy testified that he met the woman on the SMU campus that day in September, and the two made plans to go downtown to have drinks. 

During the trial, the woman, 22, told the court that the two left downtown together in a cab. She said she asked to be driven home first, but said Percy changed that instruction and they ended up at his Halifax apartment.

She told the court that Percy then forced her to have sex and filmed it without her knowledge. Percy has said the sex was consensual, and the woman agreed to the video.

The woman broke down when the video was played in court with Percy and others in the courtroom. 

"The video itself from our point of view was never consensual," said Crown attorney Rick Woodburn after the verdict. "It was cut up in certain ways, in our view at least, to make it look like it was consensual. The judge took those pieces and made a decision based on that."

Woodburn said he spoke with the woman and despite the verdict, "she was happy that she was able to tell her story."

He said sexual assaults are always difficult to prosecute. 

"Justice comes in a lot of different forms," he said. "Sometimes it's a conviction, sometimes it's acquittal, but a lot of the sexual complainants [who]I deal with certainly felt that going through the process was not a mistake, no matter what the outcome was."

Next trial Aug. 27

The next trial is expected to begin Aug. 27. 

The latest charges against Percy were laid earlier this month in connection with an incident alleged to have happened in 2013. In that case, Percy is accused of sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking to overcome resistance and assault.

With files from Jenny Cowley

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