MONTREAL — The lawyer for a Montreal police officer on trial for sexual assault cross-examined the alleged victim Tuesday, who insisted she was scared and did not welcome the officer's advances.
Montreal police officer Roger Fréchette faces one count of sexual assault against a woman from Ontario who was visiting Montreal in February 2019. He is the first police officer to be charged following an independent investigation by Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes.
"I was definitely scared and out of my element," the woman said on her second and final day on the stand. "I did the best I could with what I had."
The alleged victim is a woman in her 40s whose identity is protected by a publication ban. She had come to Montreal with her then-boyfriend for a Valentine's Day weekend when they were arrested downtown because they were arguing on the street after a night of drinking. She testified of being roughly arrested by Montreal officers and transported to a downtown detention centre, and she said her ex-boyfriend was arrested for breaching court conditions.
The woman told the court that after she was released from the detention centre hours later, Fréchette, who was off-duty, insisted on taking her back to her hotel room. She said he followed her into her room and allegedly groped her, licked her neck, grabbed her private parts and put her hand on his crotch.
Fréchette's lawyer, Félix Rémillard-Larose, questioned the woman about alleged inconsistencies between her testimony and the version of events she gave to investigators in a recorded statement about 10 days after the incident. Rémillard-Larose asked why some specifics about the alleged groping only came out during her testimony on Monday.
“I had a lot of time to think about certain things,” the woman responded.
She had told the court on Monday she suffered post-traumatic stress previous to her 2019 arrest in Montreal and said she didn't remember specific conversations with Fréchette or the sequence of events in the hotel room.
It was during her time in detention that she first encountered Fréchette, alleging that on several occasions, he made comments about her appearance and her private parts when she was partially naked in a cell.
Despite qualifying his behaviour as creepy, she told the court Tuesday she didn't report Fréchette's behaviour to any of his colleagues or superiors when she was in detention or after she was released.
"But the things that happened, happened," she told Quebec court Judge Lori Renée Weitzman.
Fréchette, she testified, drove her to her hotel room, where at one point, she said she sarcastically asked the accused what his intentions were. She said he told her he couldn't have an affair, that he was married with four kids and said he could get fired. The alleged victim said she was asking the question sarcastically but was also trying to gauge the situation, which she qualified as terrifying.
“I was testing the waters to see what level of danger I was in,” she said. At some point in the night, she said, Fréchette left the hotel room.
The trial is scheduled to last the week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2021.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press