Stephen Hopkins denies alleged sex assault despite eyewitness account, in last-minute decision to testify

·2 min read
Stephen Hopkins sits at a counsel table, his legs in irons, during his trial in late May. The accused is representing himself, and decided Tuesday to testify in his defence. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)
Stephen Hopkins sits at a counsel table, his legs in irons, during his trial in late May. The accused is representing himself, and decided Tuesday to testify in his defence. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)

In a last-minute decision on Tuesday, Stephen Hopkins took the stand in his own trial, denying repeatedly that he ever laid a hand on — or even spoke to — the complainant he's accused of sexually assaulting.

"I did not meet [her], I did not force my way into her residence, I did not forcibly confine her, and I did not attempt any sexual intercourse … and also I did not slap her for making more noise than she ought to have," he said.

The complainant, a 17-year-old girl at the time, alleges he broke into her Cowan Heights home, forced sexual acts on her and slapped her when she screamed.

Hopkins had only made his decision to testify earlier Tuesday, after Justice Donald Burrage had given him the weekend to think about whether he wanted to take the stand in his own defence.

Hopkins, gesturing comfortably on the stand as he gave his account of that morning in September 2020, confirmed he was "servicing" the complainant's street by collecting recyclables, pushing a cart full of his personal belongings and empty cans.

He was living in a shelter at the time, he said, and had just been released from prison for a previous sex assault conviction.

"All elements of the charge are to be denied formally," Hopkins said.

"You did not meet [the complainant]?" Burrage asked.

"That's correct," Hopkins answered, before turning to Crown counsel Jennifer Standen, demanding that she remove her mask.

"I can't understand you," Hopkins said repeatedly, at one point laughing loudly, before allowing Standen to continue her cross-examination without interruption.

Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

"Did you see [the complainant]?" Standen asked.

"I did see her," Hopkins said. "There was a rather spunky female well into her 20s who looked toward me and pointed with some attitude."

He went on to say the complainant was in the middle of the road, calling out to him and "talking to nobody;" five minutes later, Hopkins said, he was arrested.

Witnesses, DNA conflict with Hopkins's account

Standen has produced an array of evidence in her prosecution, ranging from eyewitness testimony placing Hopkins inside the complainant's home to DNA evidence found on the complainant's body.

She referred to that evidence as she needled Hopkins on the stand, suggesting that he was highly recognizable and that witness descriptions matched him exactly.

"Everybody in the city knows who I am," Hopkins agreed.

"Do you suggest there was a man pushing recyclables at the same time as you, who looks like you, who attacked her?" Standen asked. "I'm going to suggest to you that there was no other man that day."

"I do not meet the identity of the person who assaulted her," Hopkins replied. "It's no evidence of my guilt that I was in the area."

Hopkins, who has declined a lawyer and is representing himself, will give his final argument to Burrage on Monday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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