A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge has found taxi driver Lulzim Jakupaj guilty of break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence in relation to an early morning incident at a home in Kilbride last May.
In his hour-long oral decision late Thursday afternoon, Chief Justice Raymond Whalen ruled Jakupaj, 33, broke into the house that a female passenger had just entered while he was on the job on May 21, 2016.
Jakupaj was working as a City Wide Taxi driver when he dropped off a woman at the Kilbride residence shortly before 3 a.m.
The 22-year-old woman, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, testified that she hopped in a cab after having a few drinks on George Street.
Those facts were not in dispute at trial. The conflicting version of events began with what happened next.
A neighbour testified to seeing a City Wide Taxi driver get out of his vehicle and walk in the direction of the female passenger who had exited the cab minutes earlier, towards the house. The neighbour saw the same man leave in a hurry minutes later.
The woman's ex-boyfriend told the court that he confronted an intruder inside the house and said he was "quite sure" it was Jakupaj.
But Jakupaj told police in a taped interview six days after the incident that he left immediately after dropping off the woman and ensuring she got home safely.
Jakupaj told RNC Sgt. Colin McNeil that he drove back downtown to George Street, where CCTV cameras filmed a cab like his 15 minutes after the woman had been picked up for the fare to Kilbride.
In his final submissions, defence lawyer Jason Edwards had argued that the story told by his client "matches the tape."
Edwards stressed that his Crown counterpart's case was long on presumptions, and short on facts.
"There's a presumption she's forgotten, and that's a presumption of innocence," Edwards told the court.
The Crown, meanwhile, had argued that Jakupaj attempted to break in after the woman entered the residence, and noted the possibility of a sexual motive.
"There are some issues with Mr. Jakupaj's credibility and some inconsistencies in his statements," Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan told the court in her final submissions.
In his decision Thursday, the judge said he was "convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that [Jakupaj] was the intruder."
Other charges going to trial this fall
Jakupaj was taken into custody on Thursday immediately after Whalen's decision. The Crown had asked for Jakupaj to be remanded; the defence argued that was not necessary.
Jakupaj is set to have a sentencing hearing in May. He is also facing separate charges of sexual assault related to other complaints, with a trial on those matters set for the fall.
He was initially denied bail, but had been released following a bail review at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in October.
He remained out on bail until the verdict, when he was taken back into custody.
Jakupaj had agreed not to drive a cab as part of his bail conditions.