Warning: This story contains distressing details.
The trial of a Halifax man charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm came to an abrupt halt Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of sexual assault.
The surprise change came after the victim, a 42-year-old woman whose identity is protected by a publication ban, gave emotional testimony this week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court about how Matthew Albert Percy raped her in her own home in November 2013.
The victim is one of four women who have accused Percy, 38, of sexual assault. He was previously convicted in two of the cases, and was acquitted in another.
The woman was supposed to be cross-examined by Percy's lawyer Wednesday, on what was to be the second day of his fourth trial.
"She's still unpacking her feelings about this," Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn said outside court after the guilty plea.
"She was devastated that a friend of hers sexually assaulted her, and she's carried that with her for years, and she was able to release it yesterday and she was able to look him in the eye, and that pain that she felt we saw on the stand yesterday."
Percy was a friend
The woman testified she'd known Percy for about 15 years before the assault and considered him a close friend. She said she'd invited him to her home where they sat talking, eating snacks and drinking wine on the evening of Nov. 29, 2013. She said he attacked her without warning, slapping, biting and raping her, leaving her shocked and bruised.
In agreeing to the guilty plea, Woodburn said the Crown would not be trying to prove Percy gave the victim a sexually transmitted infection. Both Percy and the woman were diagnosed with and received treatment for an STI following the rape, according to evidence on the first day of the trial.
Justice Christa Brothers questioned Percy following the guilty plea, making sure he understood the consequences of his actions. He answered, "Yes, my lady," to each of her queries, including when she warned him that the potential maximum sentence for the offence he pleaded guilty to is 14 years.
The Crown and defence said they will be making a joint recommendation on sentencing when the case returns to court in December. Woodburn said the recommendation will be for a substantial additional sentence in prison. He wouldn't specify how long that recommended sentence will be.
In March, Percy was sentenced to five years in prison for an aggravated sexual assault against a 19-year-old university student in 2014. In 2019, he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for voyeurism and sexual assault involving another victim, also a university student. Percy was a groundskeeper at Saint Mary's University at the time.
The victim in the current case will give a statement on how the sexual assault has impacted her life at the time of sentencing.
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