Halifax man sentenced to 5 years for sexual assault in case involving 4th woman

·3 min read
Matthew Percy is shown outside a Halifax provincial court courtroom on June 19, 2018. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)
Matthew Percy is shown outside a Halifax provincial court courtroom on June 19, 2018. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)

A judge has sentenced a Halifax man to five years in prison for sexual assault, saying he exploited his longtime relationship with the victim and violated her sexual integrity.

Matthew Percy declined to address the court on Tuesday just before Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Christa Brothers handed down the sentence, following a joint recommendation of five years from Crown and defence lawyers.

Percy pleaded guilty to sexual assault just as his trial got underway in November, but not before the victim — a 42-year-old woman whose identity is protected by a publication ban — gave emotional testimony about how he 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.

Brothers said in her decision that Percy and the victim had been close friends for 15 years, and so his degree of moral blameworthiness was high.

Court heard that Percy had been invited to the victim's home, where they were eating food and drinking wine. They then decided to watch a movie, which is when Percy forced himself on the woman.

Afraid, trapped, in shock

He pinned her on the couch, and given how much larger he was, she could not free herself, the judge said.

"She was struggling to breathe under his weight," said Brothers. "[The victim] was afraid, trapped and in shock."

He then penetrated her vaginally, said Brothers.

Percy also bit her arm and slapped her across the face in the course of the assault, causing bruising in multiple areas and a cut and swollen lip.

Brothers also noted that after the attack, Percy walked toward the door and said in a flippant and sarcastic manner, "Don't I get a hug goodbye?"

She said the fact the victim was physically dominated, that she was assaulted in her own home, that there was an expectation of security given their friendship, and that the victim endured significant physical and psychological harm were all aggravating factors in her sentencing decision.

Victim struggles with trust

Earlier, Crown lawyer Rick Woodburn read a victim impact statement from the woman, in which she described struggling to trust people.

"I have shut myself off to others and share very little of myself, even [with] friends and family," Woodburn read. "Eight years have passed, and I'm no closer to being the person I was before being physically and emotionally violated."

The victim said something broke inside her that night, "and I don't know how to heal it."

"Sometimes I think it's a wound that will never heal completely, one that only falls dormant and until all the feelings rise to the surface again," the victim's statement said, adding that she often has nightmares about being chased or attacked.

"Fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, betrayal. Those are just some of the emotions I cycle through."

Brothers noted in her decision that the statement brought into "sharp focus" the impact the assault had on both the woman's physical and mental health.

"This has obviously had a profound impact on her ability to have trusting relationships," said Brothers.

Brothers also noted the victim decided to come forward to police after reading news articles about other accusations against Percy.

She said despite Percy's convictions, because this sexual assault took place before the others, the court must consider him a first-time offender, something she called a "legal anomaly."

Brothers said although Percy pleaded guilty, he only did so during his trial and after the victim testified.

However, the timing of this plea did prevent her from having to endure cross-examination and acknowledged the seriousness of the offence, and so that was also considered a mitigating factor in her decision.

Nevertheless, Brothers said Percy disregarded the victim's sexual integrity and exploited their relationship, and so a sentence of five years was appropriate.

In May, Percy was sentenced to five years in prison for an aggravated sexual assault against a 19-year-old university student in 2014.

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