A Northwest Territories judge has found a Behchokǫ̀ man, charged with aggravated assault, not guilty even though he says he believes the man did, in fact, commit the crime.
In territorial court on April 14, Judge Donovan Molloy said he had to find Mikey Chocolate not guilty because of the "shameful effort" put forth by the Crown prosecutor's office.
Chocolate was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating another man with a metal bat, stabbing him with a knife and then choking him in Behchokǫ̀ in December 2021.
Chocolate pleaded not guilty and his trial took place April 13 and 14 in Behchokǫ̀. The alleged victim in the case was the only witness. He testified Chocolate savagely beat him for more than a half hour.
Ultimately, Molloy found Chocolate not guilty because of "negligent prosecution" by the case's Crown prosecutor Trevor Johnson.
Molloy said he did not find the victim credible because of several inconsistencies that were brought-up during his testimony and the lack of detail he provided.
Judge "mind-boggled" by lack of evidence
Molloy said he was "mind-boggled" that Johnson didn't call any other witnesses or present more detailed medical evidence.
"I mean, this is a joke," Molloy told the court. "You should be embarrassed and I do not care what anybody says. This is a joke. Your presentation, the effort for a crime this serious in this community, for that man, if he did it, to walk away from that based upon what I would refer to as a negligent prosecution, is ridiculous."
"Mr. Chocolate, I suspect you did beat [the victim] but that is not the test. The Crown is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and it is a shameful effort that they put forward today sir. You are thereby entitled to be found not guilty. Shameful."
The victim, a 28-year-old Behchokǫ̀ man, began his testimony on April 13 but because of audio difficulties the trial had to be adjourned until the next day. He testified behind a witness screen.
The man said he was told by three men to go to a house in the community early in the morning on Dec. 20. When he arrived, he sat down on the couch and they began drinking. A little while later, he says Chocolate entered the house and began beating him with a metal bat.
While he was on the ground, the man said he was able to dislodge the bat from Chocolate's hands. He said Chocolate then began beating him with his fists. He also said Chocolate stabbed him with a small steak knife, though he had difficulty describing the knife when questioned. He testified that Chocolate also choked him using his hands for about thirty seconds.
When asked if any of the other men at the house helped him in any way during the beating, the victim said no.
Victim required medevac, surgery
The victim said he was able to crawl into another room and then Chocolate left the house. While in the other room, the man says one of the other men came in the room and offered him his cellphone to call an ambulance.
He said he first called the RCMP and told them he was in a snowmobile accident because he was afraid. He said the cops told him to call the local health centre. He did and when the ambulance arrived at the house, he said he told the medical technicians that he had actually been assaulted.
The man said he was later medevaced to Edmonton where he had surgery to put a metal plate in his leg. He said he also suffered a stab wound to his finger and several broken ribs. The man told the court he had trouble speaking for a month after the incident.
During his testimony, Johnson presented several photographs of the man's injuries.
Defence focused on inconsistencies in victim testimony
During cross examination, Chocolate's lawyer Kim Arial raised several inconsistencies in the man's testimony. The man apparently told the RCMP in one of his statements that there were only two other men in the house when he told the court there were three other men.
When asked about the inconsistencies the man repeatedly evaded the questions, instead saying he was "scared."
"He repeated the same mantra over and over," Molloy said in regard to the man's testimony. "There was no detail to it other than it was his shield to pretty much every question that Ms. Arial asked him."
In criticising the Crown for not calling on other eyewitnesses or introducing medical records, Molloy called the victim's evidence on his injuries "hearsay."
"What evidence did you establish to prove that the man was maimed? Because that is what it says in the charge."
Johnson said one of the RCMP officers involved in the case was scheduled to testify but was only available the day the court had adjourned early.