A tiny taste of vile judicial industry history:
2020 08 07: Louisiana Supreme Court upholds Black man’s life sentence for trying to steal hedge clippers more than 20 years ago
2014: Du Pont heir, white, convicted of raping daughter spared prison
2017: ‘Great unfairness’: 2 more sex assault cases where victims were jailed to ensure their court testimony
Starlite was 16 when she was shackled and penned in a holding cell behind an Edmonton courtroom, where she stared at the man who had sexually assaulted her at knifepoint. Let that sink in.
… The two new cases suggest a troubling pattern in the way the courts treat victims in such cases, says one of Edmonton’s top criminal defence lawyers. “I have seen a number of cases that have been disturbing in terms of how some of the witnesses are treated,” said Brian Beresh, who pointed out that Starlite and Susan were both marginalized victims, unlikely to have access to legal advice, family or community support. … She said Saeed tried to block her from leaving the apartment, but she managed to get outside. “He pushed me to the ground and we started rolling around,” she said in an interview with CBC News. “He started to hit me and ripped my clothes off. I got him one good shot to the side of his face with my heel, and that got him more angry.” Eventually, Starlite gave up. “I started crying. And halfway through, I just stopped fighting,” she said. “Let him do what he had to do.”
She was initially reluctant to report what had happened, but a police officer eventually convinced her to go to a medicentre for a rape kit. Hassan was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault. … First scheduled to testify in December 2012, Starlite was arrested the night before for allegedly breaching a court order. According to facility records, she spent two nights in custody at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre, and then was released without testifying. When Saeed’s trial resumed in January 2013, Starlite was again arrested on the eve of her testimony, again for the same reason.
Her testimony spanned two days, but she spent a total of six nights in custody at the young offender facility.
“He had sex with me without my permission,” she testified during the trial. “I just wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.” Later, after she spent time near her attacker in the courthouse holding cells, Starlite decided she did not want Saeed to be convicted. “I’m in custody, he’s in custody,” she explained to the court. “I don’t want to go through with this, and I don’t want to charge him. Because I believe everyone deserves a second chance. I’ve thought about it all last night. I didn’t even sleep.”
Tomlinson said placing Starlite in the same cell block with her attacker was wrong. “We have to ensure that does not happen,” Tomlinson said. “I think we need to put policies and protocols in place that witnesses who are victims, and in particular vulnerable victims, are not placed in proximity to the alleged offender.”
Ultimately, Justice Doreen Sulyma convicted Saeed of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced him to five years in prison. Did J Sulyma order this rape victim put into shackles and jailed? Who is that evil to order a rape victim jailed? And held across from her rapist? If it was Justice Sulyma, why is she still a judge? …
2017: Enabling sexual predators? Enabling Canadian judges revictimizing sexual assault victims? Enabling Canada’s demented abusive legal system? Threatening sexual assault victims to keep silent? Galling, throw-women-back-into-the-cave statements to Criminal Lawyers’ Association by Canada’s Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin
… The Chief Justice’s speech only exacerbated the crisis of confidence afflicting the courts she symbolically speaks for. By now, it is well known that only three in every 1,000 sexual assaults result in a conviction. No one can rationally call this an acceptable level of service to sexual assault survivors. It is instead a profound failing. Chief Justice McLachlin could have addressed this serious problem in constructive ways, but she missed the boat. …
Chief Justice McLachlin’s foray into this important social issue was problematic in another respect as well. She suggested the national debate is too polarized and hostile to be helpful. This sounds like code for “anger is inappropriate here.”
But wait a minute. Nobody on the offender side of the ledger is angry about a 99.7 per cent success rate in escaping liability for sexual violence.
So the Chief Justice’s coded disparagement of anger is really directed only at sexual assault survivors. This shades uncomfortably close to victim-blaming. Ugly as this truth may be, sexual assault survivors and their loved ones have every good reason to be angry at the current system’s profoundly unacceptable service delivery rates. The last thing survivors need, and the last thing that could build greater confidence in justice processes among survivors, is for the Chief Justice to wag her finger at them. …
2017: Oh Canada! Once-imprisoned lawyer (for child pornography) one step closer to getting his licence to practise law in Ontario, Two out of three lawyers on Law Society of Upper Canada tribunal decide he’s of ‘good character.’ Dissenting opinion finds Ronald Davidovic failed to prove he was rehabilitated.
2017 03 24: Ontario Law Society tribunal rules Florida sex offender can practise law in Ontario
A registered Florida sex offender, who spent two years in prison on a child pornography conviction, has been deemed to be of “good character” for a licence to practise law in Ontario. Ronald Ori Davidovic, 44, appeared before a three-member panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada tribunal last December in what is known as a “good character hearing,” where he sought to prove that he is rehabilitated and committed to upholding the law if allowed to practise.
Counsel for the law society ultimately decided not to oppose his application, and Davidovic’s wish was granted by the panel in a 2-1 decision released last week. Law Society! WTF!!?
… But the dissenting panel member, criminal defence lawyer Paul Cooper, found that there simply wasn’t enough evidence of rehabilitation before the tribunal, and said he would not have granted Davidovic’s application. “In this case, the applicant’s statements of regret at the hearing focused on the nightmare he suffers or the shame he suffers and as he describes in his testimony the ‘handicap’ of him being labeled as a consumer of child pornography by the community.
Mr. Davidovic failed to recognize what he has done and only provides lip service to any victim empathy,” Cooper wrote.
“There is insufficient evidence that the applicant is rehabilitated. The misconduct was sexually motivated and he possessed a magnetic attraction. He has been diagnosed with non-specified paraphilia and this diagnosis remains unresolved.”
He had practised in Florida for eight years, including estate and financial planning and then as general counsel “for a large telecommunications company.” He was permitted to resign from the Florida bar after his conviction.
Davidovic told the law society panel that he has many close relatives in Toronto, and wants to practise criminal law. “He believes that his experience will enable him to assist others,” the majority wrote. No wonder the legal/judicial industry in Canada is in abusive chaos!
… “As a lawyer, occupying a crucial role in upholding the rule of law, the applicant’s offence constituted a breach of trust.” The panel chose not to rely on evidence in the agreed statement of fact from an Anglican reverend and “analytical psychologist” who began seeing Davidovic in the year preceding his time in prison and after his release. …
2019: Why Society Goes Easy on Rapists, Our criminal justice system still doesn’t take seriously one of the most heinous acts a person can commit. Because too many misogynists/rapists/pedophiles in politics appoint their mirror image to the bench?
2020 07 30: Judicial industry protects yet another (white?) Canadian pedophile, No jail time for Kamloops man who molested step-daughter
2020 08 05: “Rule of Law” or “Rich White Man Law?” US Senate (controls Supreme Court nominees) created to represent the rich: “…to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” John A. MacDonald, 1st thug PM on why Canada needed an appointed Senate: “We must protect the rights of the minority, and the rich are always in fewer number than the poor.”
End tiny taste of vile judicial industry history (more in the “Refer also to” Section).
Tweets in response:
Lynn [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
show a photo where his face isn’t covered. Women need to know what he looks like. He’ll be out soon. All Canadians should organize protests against a serial rapist having the system help him rather than the victims. & since he was beat up in jail he gets a lighter sentence? WTF!
Kathleen [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
“The women are mistaken or lying,” he said. “I did not sexually assault any of these women.”
This is what I’m struggling with; Justice Sulyma waxed on about McKnight’s chance of rehabilitation, but how can a man who won’t own what he did ever be rehabilitated? So frustrating.
Kathleen [email protected]
Even Mr was a bit stunned – especially when he read that the sentence had been reduced based on an assault in Remand. That’s irrelevant to the charges & verdict. Will be interesting to see if the Crown appeals the sentence.
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
I’d be surprised if there aren’t a bunch of appeals to come.
fiona [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
This is terrible. Eight years is nothing.
G. A. Christian [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden and @KikkiPlanet
Not like serial rapists ever continue or get worse, right Paul Bernardo?
A few of the comments to the article:
jbd07: “he comes from a good family” is a reason for leniency???
sentencing like this shows a need to have a mechanism to remove judges like this. Public safety and justice were not served here. This is an absolutely brutal judgment.
CDNeXpat31: I’m saddened for the victims of McKnight who also became victims of Justice Sulyma.
Dutch 58: Rehabilitation? What a joke. This guy is a convicted, serial rapist. He will go right back to it when he gets out, which will probably be in 2 years.
Sledder1205: Some people would say it’s time for vigilante justice against McKight and the judge (who is too stupid to be a judge). The public trust has been broken Yet again.
Mallorn: Why should he get the benefit of reduced sentence because he was assaulted in prison? The victims of his assaults certainly didn’t get any benefit from being assaulted by him.
Richard–Vancouver: Anyone who reads the criminal sentencing decisions on their province’s courts website is going to be surprised at some of the things judges take into account in mitigating sentence. And the range of sentences, especially when this “totality principle” gets applied. It’s a kind of discount, you can rape several women for the price of one.
BGG3: Thanks for putting it that way. That’s how it reads all across this country. Judges like this say it’s open season on women, just don’t get caught.
Vliengende Hollander: ‘his potential for rehabilitation’ and if he doesn’t should he then get the remainder of the 22.5???
George N Bay: It is unbelievable how ridiculously lenient the Canadian legal system and our current batch of criminal court judges are recently. Shameful really. Real governance and real leadership are strongly overdue. Woe Canada.
Globe 2019: This unbelievably wrong, what precedent is there to reduce a sentence due to an unrelated incident while in jail. This guy should get 25 to life and the judge should be fired.
Sceptiquement: We have to purge the judiciary of all these misogynist female judges.
uchu: Our judiciary system is a joke. There is no chance of rehabilitation for a serial predator.
johnny humber: 8 years for each assault, sure but not 8 years total for a serial rapist “His father has offered him a job with his investment company when he is released from prison.” I’d like to get the client list of this investment firm and encourage all of them to take their money elsewhere.
BGG3: This judge seems to think women are appropriate cannon fodder for this man in the future and for any other man to serially assault women (only whores work at the bar) wherever and whenever. The man has proven himself unfit to be in public and he is not going away for long enough.
David Murrell: I appreciate the G&M’s solid coverage of this criminal case and this well-written article in particular. But the Globe has been a passionate supporter of Canada’s ultra-lenient criminal justice system, of which this laughable “sentence” is just one example.
Justice Doreen Sunyma is a product of our progressive system, a here she considers only the welfare of the convicted perp. No need to think about the pain women-victims are suffering. No one outside of the victims cares. This is our corrupt “justice” system for all to see.
BGG3: Or any other women who exist in the world, including women who go to and work in bars. I guess they must deserve it. That’s what I’m reading between the lines of this ‘judgment’. What a farce.
Pragmatistic: The not so surprising and the surprising is it is another empathetic female judge who just slapped women in the face again. I guess all prisoners should be released that got a beating in jail. Sex offenders are one of the hardest offenders to rehabilitate just above pedophiles who also keep getting released. The judicial system needs a great big enema of any bleeding heart type judge male or female.
Reduced sentence for serial sex offender Matthew McKnight spurs uproar in Edmonton courtroom by Jana G. Pruden, July 31, 2020, The Globe and Mail
An Edmonton judge found five sexual assaults committed by Matthew McKnight would be worth 16½ years in prison – but reduced that by more than half taking into account factors including an assault he suffered in custody, his “lifestyle changes,” and his potential for rehabilitation. The bulk of the reduction came from totality, the principle that overall sentences for multiple offences should not be excessive.
“I am persuaded that he has excellent chances to rehabilitate,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma said, in sentencing Mr. McKnight to a total of eight years in prison.
As she announced the sentence, one of the many young women watching the proceedings lunged toward the defence table, flipping a computer monitor to the ground. As sheriffs surrounded her and removed her from the courtroom,
the woman screamed: “I was 17 years old! I was 17 years old!” I will never forgive this judge for the harm inflicted on the victims in this case and future victims, because of her ruling.
Other women in the courtroom wept and shouted, calling the judge a “misogynist” and a “sympathizer,” and shouting at Mr. McKnight as courthouse security officers streamed into the room, and Justice Sulyma cleared court.
It was an emotional end to one of the city’s longest criminal trials in recent memory, and what would be one of the first major criminal court cases of the #MeToo era in Canada.
Mr. McKnight, now 33, was at one point facing 26 charges of sexual assault against 21 women, but had gone to trial last fall on 13 counts of sexual assault, and was convicted by a jury in January of five charges.
Mr. McKnight was a well-known bar promoter and co-owner of country party bar Knoxville’s when he was charged in 2016. During the trial, court heard he had been a powerful figure in the Edmonton bar scene, known for his outlandish outfits, generous free drinks and frequent after-parties. The women who testified told court about nights in which they accepted drinks from Mr. McKnight, then woke from long periods of blackouts to Mr. McKnight sexually assaulting them. They testified about being unable to move, being scared for their lives, and in some cases, getting sick and vomiting.
The first three women came forward in 2016, and the others followed after news of those charges became public. The oldest allegation dated back to 2010.
The Crown had been asking for a sentence of 22½ years, while the defence was arguing for five to nine years.
Edmonton bar promoter should spend five to nine years in prison for sexual assaults, defence lawyer says
Crown seeks 22.5-year sentence for Edmonton bar promoter Matthew McKnight, found guilty of five sexual assaults
In her decision, Justice Sulyma said she did not find drugging in any of the cases, but did find some aggravating factors, including that Mr. McKnight refused to wear a condom, and that one of the victims had bruises that she said “reflects a violence in the exchange.”
But Justice Sulyma said other aspects of his behaviour during the assaults – like Mr. McKnight telling one woman the rape was her fault because “only whores work at Knoxville’s” – were not aggravating.
She gave Mr. McKnight a 40 per cent reduction in the sentence for totality, on the grounds that a 16.5 year term would be “disproportionate.” She then reduced the sentence one year for a beating he suffered from another inmate after his arrest in 2016, and then a further year based on his prospects of rehabilitation and “lifestyle changes,” which court heard include that he stopped drinking and has not had sexual relations with any women since his arrest. Who believes that? I don’t.
“I am also of the view that he is well aware that this is no longer an issue of lifestyle,” she said.
Federal offenders in Canada are typically eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentence.
As she read her decision, a number of young women who had been involved with the case stood up and moved to the front of the spectator area where they stood holding hands. Their faces were hidden by masks, some stitched with a handprint over the mouth.
Among them were women Mr. McKnight was convicted of assaulting, women he was found not guilty of assaulting, and others, whose charges never proceeded to trial.
Mr. McKnight, who had wiped away a tear reading a statement to the court last week in which he expressed remorse but did not admit guilt, appeared emotionless. After the sentencing, he was taken into custody.
Matthew McKnight expresses remorse, but not guilt, in address at sentencing hearing
Meanwhile, the women gathered in the hallway, watched closely by a contingent of sheriffs.
“Sixteen-and-a-half years sounded good, I was OK with that.
And then she just kept lowering and lowering and lowering it,” said one of the victims. She was trembling, and had to sit on the floor to speak. In her victim impact statement, she had described the profound effects of the assault on her relationships, career and mental health.
“I feel that the justice system has failed every single female that has suffered any kind of sexual assault,” she said.
The identities of the women involved in the case are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
Outside court, defence lawyer Dino Bottos said he hadn’t spoken to his client, but said, “He would have been satisfied with the sentence.”
Mr. Bottos said he, too, felt “very good about the sentence,” and also the judge’s finding that the rapes were not a systemic attack, “but rather five separate, independent sexual assaults.”
During the trial, Mr. McKnight testified to having slept with 200 to 300 women in a six-year period, and said the women who came forward accusing him of rape were all either mistaken The frac’ing arrogance of the monster is beyond hell or lying about their experiences with him.
Mr. McKnight had no previous convictions, and Mr. Bottos had argued his client’s prospects for rehabilitation were good because he is intelligent, comes from a good family and has good family supports.
His father has offered him a job with his investment company when he is released from prison.
Mr. Bottos added that in terms of the sentence, “The masses and the bloodthirsty will never be satisfied.” In my view, the lawyer is more arrogant and monstrous than his client; he needs to experience being raped to understand how heinous his words are. Maybe he is a rapist too or another pedophile lawyer? It’s one thing to defend a monster in court, quite another to attack the public and many other rape/sexual molestation victims outside the courtroom (who know they will never see justice or be made whole). Absolutely no need for this lawyer to do that after his huge victory getting what he wanted from the judge. It’s inappropriate, cruel (which I think was the intent), and reeks of misogyny.
How prevalent is racism (and misogyny) among Canadian lawyers & judges?
‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ Sketch: “Judges: a danger to Canadian women”
I think Mr. Bottos needs to apologize, publicly. The judge punished women globally with a dreadful ruling that enables plenty more rape ahead. Of course the masses will be upset. “Bloodthirsty?” What a fucker.
While he spoke, some of the women involved in the case walked by reporters and gave him the finger.
Crown prosecutor Mark Huyser-Wierenga, however, said the judgement, “is what it is,” and that the Crown will be considering an appeal.
He noted that critics of the court system have said it needs to do better in dealing with allegations of sexual violence, and asked the rhetorical question:
“A sentence of eight years for someone who is appropriately classified as a serial rapist, is that adequate?”
“Sexual violence is way too prevalent, and myths and stereotypes about what a sexual offender looks like are still troubling to the criminal justice system,” he said.
Asked if the women in the case got justice, Mr. Huyser-Wierenga said that was a question for them. But, he added: “It raises some deeper questions, I guess, about what is justice.”
Speaking to the media outside court, the first woman who came forward in 2016 – and one of those whom Mr. McKnight was found not-guilty of assaulting – expressed disappointment in the verdict, but also said she was glad he’d been convicted at all.
“It is kind of a loss, but at the end of the day, we still did this together. It is still hard to put a rapist in jail for eight years…,” she said. “In the end, it’s slightly worth it knowing that we did it together and he’s still getting some time, because that’s hard to do… For the first time, now, we’re starting to have a voice.”
Another woman who Mr. McKnight was also found not-guilty of assaulting said she had prepared herself for a very low sentence I did too, but I expected zero jail time given how dreadful and abusive Caveman Canada’s judicial industry is towards victims of rape and how protective and enabling of rapists and pedophiles, and how too often judges believe the rapists but not the victims, but questioned what effect the case could have on other victims, in other cases.
“Who is going to come forward now?” she asked. “Who is going to come forward now?”
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden Jul 4, 2020
We don’t run content warnings on our stories, but please be aware this is a very disturbing case and will be a very tough read for some people.
A note: I believed this was a really important story, and I am so incredibly grateful to the
@globeandmail for allowing me to sit in court for 63 days (and counting, as I’ll be at the sentencing later this week.) That is an absolutely huge investment of both time and trust.
I’m also very grateful to the women who spoke to me. That, too, is an investment of time and trust and much more, especially after they‘d already gone through so much trauma. I am also very thankful to all the lawyers, who spoke so frankly about their work and this case.
Finally, the amazing @photobracken , for the beautiful, sensitive photographs. (One of the best photojournalists anywhere, without a doubt,) and all my editors especially @dawncalleja
who worked so patiently on the piece. Also @kingdomofevan and @mingwong who put it all together
Thanks for reading the credits.
Tom [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
I’ve always found your work, particularly the long articles like this, to be in the same vein as David Grann’s work. You bring real stories and characters to life, and give them substance and heft.
Jana G. Pruden @jana_pruden
Oh my gosh, thank you! David Grann is one of the writers I most admire, and to be mentioned alongside his work really means a lot. Thank you. (As an aside, I met him briefly at a talk last summer and he was so nice and kind! It made me like him even more.)
You’re very welcome. I was hoping you’d see it as that. I love that, like he does, you take the time to do it right. I’ve followed his work for some time and just finished reading Killers of the Flower Moon which I might have liked even more than The Lost City of Z.
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
Killers of the Flower Moon is so, so good. I listened to a podcast with him taking about the organization and structure of it about five times.
Ooohhh, would you still have a link to that? That would fascinate me.
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
For sure. Stay tuned!
Meegan [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
excellent work on a brutal story. Going to think about this one for a long time. Maybe jury deliberations shouldn’t be kept secret?
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
That’s an interesting question. I’ve wondered about that as well. I wonder what changes in the jury dynamic depending on whether it is secret or not.
Kristin [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
You tell these women’s stories beautifully and with such compassion and care. Thank you
Alexandra [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Also the headline! The impact of changing the dismissive “he said, she said” to “he said, they said” (which is what it almost always is).
Susie it’s not over [email protected]_parker Replying to @jana_pruden
Excellent piece, Jana. The juxtaposition of the women’s experience versus his version is gutting. My heart aches for all the women. Disappointed face
Laura [email protected]_laura Jul 4 Replying to @jana_pruden
I read every word. Thank you for telling these women’s stories. What a frustrating and confusing jury result.
Morgan [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Amazing. Incredible. Thank you.
Imran [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Wow, what excellent writing Jana. I felt like I was there in the court room. Thank you for writing this and capturing the stories and emotions of all the women going through this.
Anna [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
This is an incredible piece, Jana.
Garrette [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Thank you for telling this story, Jana.
[email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
This story is absolutely gut-wrenching (and contains descriptions of sexual assaults) and written with such care and compassion by @jana_pruden
I hope these women get some justice on July 8 when McKnight is sentenced.
I am beating cancer and Covid-19!! Watch me!!! @Limbictweets Replying to @jana_pruden
Gutwrenching and horrific details of alleged assault and drugging. I suspect post-sentencing, Mr. Bottos will appeal. One of the most unspeakably brutal cases I have followed is R v Barton. The disrespect shown to Ms. Gladue in that trial was horrific.
Specifically, because Ms. Gladue is deceased, I should make it clear that what was particularly eggregious, at trial, is how Ms. Gladue’s preserved pelvic tissue was displayed and that “by error” a shot of Ms. Gladue’s dead body was flashed in court which her mother saw.
Nahreman [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Fantastic read, Jana. A very hard subject but you did it respectfully.
molly [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
So well done, Jana.
aaron [email protected]_Bomb911 Replying to @jana_pruden
I remember working with him at Oil City and I could tell from the moment I met him there was something off with guy. He came across as a total creep to me…but no one in the world could of predicted this. Disgusting and disturbing. I hope he’s in jail for the rest of his life!
out there [email protected]_halla73 Replying to @jana_pruden
Thank you for sharing this information in a careful and respectful manner. I send my heart and love to the women with the guts to share what happened to them to bring this subhuman to justice.
Flemming [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
A tough read…a read I feel glad I did…yet one that leaves part of me empty. TY and well done
akin to @KaylaAuthor’s perserverance and chronicling a murder trial
Shaun [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Great work, Jana! Riveting story.
Alison [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Amazing work, Jana.
Sarah [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
I just finished. Amazing writing. Thank you!
[email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Is Kyle Andersons company still a thing? I hope not.
Jess [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Thank you for writing this.
Karen [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
It’s here! Feels like forever ago that we talked about this project.
Yvonne Dean Rainbow @Frazzling Replying to @jana_pruden and @jeez_louiseee
Jean [email protected] Replying to Jana_pruden
[email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Really excellent journalism.
Fiona [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
“Sometimes, when the doorbell rang, she hid in the closet with her dog.” Sometimes, it’s the smallest details in a story that grab your heart. Thank you for this powerfully written piece.
Phoebe [email protected]_dey Replying to @jana_pruden
Well done, Jana. Such a good read.
Ottoman BigislandRainbow flagRainbow @ottomanisland Replying to @jana_pruden
This is excellent reporting of a horrific case
Jack [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Wow. Just wow. Very well written piece
Maureen [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden and @cath_cullen
Siling face with halo
[email protected] Replying [email protected]_pruden
Please update us on the sentencing. Thank you
Lynnette Kuervers, PhD Flag of [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden and @JanisIrwin
This is a great article. So sad. Disappointed but relieved face
cat [email protected]_ Replying to @jana_pruden
As always, Jana, this is sensitively and respectfully written. We do so poorly by people who have been sexually assaulted. Everything about this is heartbreaking.
Katherine [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Thank you for your work
janet [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden and @wendygillis
What sentence did he receive
Sentencing isn’t till July 8, it’s at the very end of the article.
Par [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Went to uni with him and can confirm his history of rumoured transgressions days back to 2006, but this isn’t relevant to the captivating piece you’ve written. It was chilling, gripping and allowed me to feel the human side of the victims. Well done, @jana_pruden
Ol’[email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
Definitely not “popular”. “Well known” would be a better description for that douchebag before we all found out what a slimeball he actually was.
Jana G. Pruden @jana_pruden
Maybe to you. However I listened to all these women, and others, testify about walking into bars where everybody knew him and was hanging around him, partying with him and going to his after-parties. That everyone seemed to know and like him was a powerful thing for some of them.
Fair. I’m judging this from my friend network within the industry at the time, which was definitely older than the people he hung out with.
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
Definitely some people had a very different impression, for sure. As I mention in the piece, there were serious rumours going around. But I think to a number of these young women, he looked like the king of the bar.
Absolutely! He definitely played the “I can get you into any club” line to his advantage. He used to waltz past the doormen at the Pint with a bunch of kids and sign for a ton of drinks.
Is there any news on the 2 separate cases?
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
Good question. I’ll be updating that situation in the sentencing stories next week.
I’m assuming you will cover why they are separate too?
Jana G. [email protected]_pruden
The lawyers told be they were separated because they didn’t follow the same similar pattern as the rest. The two cases won’t be proceeding.
Rebuild Year [email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
This is incredibly gut-wrenching & equally infuriating. I hope that these ladies will some way, somehow find closer & move on with their lives. Know that they ALL have saved other potential victims.
I hope the judge throw everything at this sexual predator & rapist.
July 4 comments: I know that will not happen because 1) the case is in Alberta, the most misogynistic, bigoted, racist judicial place in Canada; 2) the judicial industry is run by white supremacist/privileged “boys will be boys” promoters where rape, even if it includes killing, is a game; 3) judges nearly always let rapists off – in my view because they believe women deserve to be raped; 4) women are widely hated, notably those who dare to speak up if they’ve been wronged; 5) racism and misogyny rule Canada; 6) “justice” is a con job used to control law abiding citizens and keep free rapists, pedophiles, etc, especially those from “good family” white privilege.
Desmond D’[email protected] Replying to @jana_pruden
White privilege got this dude off 8 counts. Insane. Good job Edmonton.
Nice job on the piece regardless.
He said, they said: inside the trial of Matthew McKnight by Jana G. Pruden, July 4, 2020, The Globe and Mail
Matthew McKnight was a popular and powerful figure in the Edmonton bar scene, known for passing out free drinks and hosting frequent after-parties. Then three young women went to the police to accuse him of rape, and others followed. His trial on 13 counts of sexual assault brought to light rumours that had been circulating for years and became the first major Canadian case of the #MeToo era. But who would the jury believe?
The names and identities of the women in this story are protected by a court-ordered publication ban. They are being identified with pseudonyms.
THE NIGHTS IN QUESTION
By the morning of the third day, Juliette was starting to worry. It was the middle of January, 2020, a viciously cold week in Edmonton. She’d been so sure the jury believed her, believed them. But after 26 hours of deliberation, she wasn’t as certain as she had been, and now the question hung on her like a stone: What was taking so long?
The others were waiting, too.
Among them was Nancy, alone at a house in a small Alberta town, staring silently out the window. Angie, up north, trying to concentrate on school. Sarah, at home in Edmonton with her phone in her hand, putting it aside only to shower, then scrubbing the shampoo out as quickly as she could so she wouldn’t miss the call. Juliette, the youngest of them all, was getting ready for work.
They were complainants, not victims. In the court system, you’re considered a victim of sexual assault only if the charge is proved.
It was just before noon when word came out from the jury room.
Prosecutors Mark Huyser-Wierenga and Katherine Fraser hurried through a frozen pedway from the Crown’s office to the courthouse across the street. Defence lawyer Dino Bottos, who had been distractedly trying to work on his next case, rushed from his office several blocks through the cold. Sarah, waking from a nap, jumped out of bed and raced across the city. She’d be the only one of the women in court, the others not able or not wanting to be there – not able to ask for yet another day off work, to miss another day of school, to pay for another trip to the city; not wanting to be back in that room, to be anywhere near him.
Soon, Courtroom 417 swelled with people. There were reporters and sheriffs, lawyers and students, onlookers who’d been hearing about the case in the courthouse hallways for months. There was a small group of friends and supporters of the accused. There was his mother, fumbling for tissues, tears brimming in her eyes.
Matthew McKnight had recently turned 33. He was tall and fit, with dark brown hair and dark eyes, and was neatly dressed in a thin-cut suit, as he had been throughout the trial. He looked tense as he stepped back into the wooden prisoner’s box where, four months earlier, he’d listened to the charges being read against him: 13 counts of sexual assault against 13 women. He’d answered “not guilty” 13 times.
The courtroom was silent and heavy with the questions everyone in that room – and many others far beyond it – had been considering for months.
Would an innocent man really be accused of 13 sexual assaults?
And could a guilty man face so many charges and still walk free? Of course! It happens too often in Caveman Canada, with judges often cruely revictimizing victims.
“Okay, go ahead and have a seat here,” Detective Dave Pelech said, motioning toward the couch in the Edmonton Police Service interview room. “Do you need anything before we get started?”
“Um, no,” Juliette said. “I don’t think so.”
The 17-year-old was nervous and scared, even with her older sister beside her for support. She’d known right away that what had happened was wrong – she was crying after she left his bedroom, and she told her friends almost immediately – but she hadn’t planned to do anything more.
Except then she heard that he might have a disease and that he’d done the same thing before. Her sister texted some people in the bar scene and right away the stories started to come back. Three women who said he’d sexually assaulted them. Then a friend and a friend’s friend. Another who said she was locked in his bathroom but got away.
None of them wanted to go to the police. One said she’d come forward anonymously to back up Juliette, but she had school and cheerleading, and she couldn’t deal with any more than that. Juliette didn’t really want to open it all up either, but she felt like she had to do something. He couldn’t just keep hurting girls like that.
So, Juliette told the detective how she and her friends snuck into Knoxville’s, then went to an after-party at this guy’s place nearby. She said he was old – well, 28, not old but older – and that she tried to be polite, but he wouldn’t take her hints. She said maybe she should have done something different, or would have, but it was hard to tell a guy you didn’t like him. And it was scary, too. He was so much bigger and stronger than her.
She remembered him saying, “Don’t keep running away from me,” and how he kissed her, hard. How he kept grabbing at the bottom of her T-shirt dress and how she was going to leave, but –
The detective’s cellphone rang, and he answered it. “Okay, it’ll be just a few minutes,” he assured the caller.
It was April 5, 2016. A month earlier, CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi had been found not guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking after the judge deemed the evidence of the three women accusing him to be untruthful, inconsistent or untrustworthy.
Juliette had never even heard of Ghomeshi. She was a teenager, focused on her friends and school, largely unaware of the broader social movement brewing around her. It hadn’t occurred to her that people wouldn’t believe a woman who said she’d been sexually assaulted.
Instead, she thought it would be like on TV: She’d tell the police what happened, they’d do their investigation and the man who assaulted her would go prison.
When she looked back later, she would realize how innocent she’d been.
He stood out, even in the crowds, even in the dark and flashing lights. He liked people to look at him, and he wore attention-grabbing outfits: T-shirts with graphic images of women – one cross-legged and naked, another with a piece of duct tape across her mouth. He had a collection of wacky hats and costume props and was shirtless at every opportunity. Sometimes he’d be at the bar dressed only in briefs. One night, he wore a kilt with no shirt, and on another, tight white shorts and a fur hood with animal ears.
He particularly liked onesies. He had many, among them Tweety and Superman and Winnie the Pooh, one covered in yellow rubber duckies, another printed with crimson kisses. Eeyore, the sad and gentle donkey, worn unzipped to show the muscled chest of the man inside.
He worked for a company that owned bars around the city, but you could most often find him at Knoxville’s, a wild country-themed club where patrons passed a sign declaring it “the bar your mother warned you about” to dance and drink and maybe straddle a large mechanical moustache. He could be charming and flirtatious, offering a rose, a compliment, attention. He was known for providing generous rounds of free drinks – vodka cranberries and Fireball shooters – to revellers, friends and especially to petite and attractive young women.
He played host to parties nearly every weekend, his condo a stumbling distance through the alley, his bedroom just a few more steps from there. He took a lot of women down that hallway. His friends would later testify the women never looked drunk or drugged. They said the women always looked fine as they walked to his bedroom door.
Angie woke in a panic. She had no idea where she was, only that she was naked in a strange bed, sick and scared. Next to her was a man she didn’t know, and when he opened his eyes and moved toward her, she didn’t fight. She understood very well the threats women face. All she wanted to do was get out alive.
When it was over, she gathered her clothes from around the apartment, slipping a business card into her pocket. It said “Matt McKnight, Director of Sales & Marketing & Partner with UrbanSparq.”
She let him drive her home, not wanting to walk in the outfit she’d worn to the bar.
Later, she examined the bruises on her thighs and neck. She remembered being at a bar called the Rack with friends, but after that, nothing – an impenetrable void in her memory stretching eight hours or more. She’d blacked out from drinking before, but this was different.
When she told a guy she’d been seeing about that night – and about what had happened in the bed that morning – he said she should go to the police.
The report Angie filed in July, 2016, was the second Edmonton police had received about McKnight that year, although he’d been on their radar well before that. Women had initiated sexual-assault complaints against him on at least three separate occasions, and although those women ultimately decided not to proceed, records of those complaints were still in the system.
A third young woman, Nancy, had also contacted the police that spring, filing a report with the RCMP in central Alberta less than two weeks after Juliette met with Det. Pelech in Edmonton.
Nancy was 22 and had travelled into the city to spend the night with friends. She remembered the start of the night, but there were long gaps in her memory after that. She remembered Fireball shots and, later, being in a bed and saying “no, please no.” She remembered how much it hurt and how mad he got when she scratched him. After that, she stopped fighting and just got through it the best she could.
The next morning, he put her in a car and kissed her on the forehead like nothing bad had happened.
She went alone to the hospital two days later, her body exposed and swabbed and studied, the bruises photographed, the cuts measured. She was almost hysterical when she gave her statement to a female RCMP officer.
She didn’t hear anything until Det. Pelech called and drove out to meet her. He said there were two other women accusing McKnight of sexual assault. When he asked if Nancy was willing to proceed with charges, she said yes.
News of McKnight’s arrest spread quickly, making public allegations that had been an open secret in the Edmonton bar scene, passed in whispers and quiet warnings: “That guy is dangerous.”
A mugshot released by police on Aug. 10, 2016, showed him clean-shaven, with short-cropped hair, a dress shirt unbuttoned at the throat. Police asked anyone with information – or who may have been assaulted themselves – to come forward.
Women who had tried hard to forget McKnight saw his face appear in their Facebook feeds, on newscasts, in texts from friends and family.
One woman thought about waking in McKnight’s shower in 2010, sick and scared. She hadn’t called the police afterward and still didn’t want to, but it seemed important for them to know how long it had been going on. “I’m only doing this because I keep hearing about this,” she told the police operator. “I feel stupid.”
A woman in another province saw the news on Facebook. She’d always thought it was better to pretend it never happened, but now she wasn’t so sure. It was different when you thought it was only you.
Juliette posted the news on her Facebook page, without explanation. Most people in her life had no idea what happened and she didn’t want to tell them. She just wanted as many women as possible to see it.
On the news that fall, a tape of presidential contender Donald Trump talking to a TV host played over and over. “You can do anything,” he said. “Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” For sure. The purpose of the legal/judicial industry is to serve the rich. Politicians carefully select misogystic racist judges to enable racism, abuse and rape of women and children, that’s why men keep raping! Look at Epstein’s peodophilia free pass deal. Look at how the pedophilia-overflowing catholic church is enabled, protected, revered and worshipped instead of shunned by donation-plate-fillers. If people quit supporting rape-enabling churches and governments removed tax free status for such evil agencies, pedophiles and rapists would lose their Silent Shuffle protections and be kicked out fast!
The years that passed between McKnight being charged in 2016 and his trial in the fall of 2019 followed the arc of the broader #MeToo movement. Stories of sexual assault and harassment became a fixture in the media, an evolving story of women collectively raising their voices against powerful men, with varying results.
While names such as Kavanaugh, Cosby and Weinstein dominated international headlines, cases played out more quietly in other industries, companies and communities. In Canada, there was the artistic director of a Toronto theatre, a respected winemaker, a pop star and others.
But while the movement proved to be a powerful social tool, in many cases the allegations didn’t translate into any kind of criminal sanction. The case against McKnight would be Canada’s first significant legal reckoning of the issues and questions playing out more broadly in other places.
At its peak, the case comprised 26 charges of sexual and physical assault against 21 women. But as it wound its way to court, some of the women decided they didn’t want to proceed, and the Crown or court opted not to proceed on others. One woman couldn’t be located, and two cases would be heard separately. Of 26 charges, McKnight would go to trial on 13.
The case would be prosecuted by one of the city’s most senior Crown prosecutors, Huyser-Wierenga, and Fraser, a young lawyer with an interest in sexual-assault prosecutions.
Although Huyser-Wierenga was an experienced lawyer, the McKnight trial would be one of the largest and most complex of his career. He also faced a personal challenge: the degenerative eye condition he’d lived with most of his life had escalated suddenly and quickly in the preceding years, rendering him blind. Unable to read, he would have to rely on his memory and work in close collaboration with Fraser and his legal assistant to organize and present the sprawling case.
Representing McKnight was Bottos, a prominent defence lawyer who’d been involved in a number of controversial and high-profile cases, including representing Bradley Barton in the death of Cindy Gladue in 2011. The not-guilty verdict in that case sparked protests around the country and was ultimately overturned at the Supreme Court of Canada, slated for retrial in 2021.
Bottos had walked through protesters more than once on his way to court, and he sometimes said those times made him proudest to be a defence lawyer. He said he believed everyone should, at their worst moments, have someone at their side.
Except for a three-week holiday and time spent on his other cases, Bottos had been working seven days a week for eight months to prepare for the McKnight trial, going over and over the women’s statements to police and at the preliminary hearing until he knew them almost word for word. McKnight also played an active role in his own defence, putting in countless hours of research and sorting through hundreds of photos and documents, gathering his own evidence about the nights in question.
Huyser-Wierenga and Fraser were also working intensely to prepare for trial. Around the country, there had been broader discussions about how to better handle sexual-assault allegations, and some of those initiatives were showing success. But while courts and police were moving slowly to a more “victim-centred approach,” the legal process could still be devastating. Huyser-Wierenga and Fraser spent time trying to build trust with the women and prepare them for what it would be like to testify and undergo cross-examination. They met with each woman multiple times, even bringing them into the courtroom so they’d know what to expect when they got there.
Huyser-Wierenga was 58, Bottos, 57. Each had run hundreds of trials in their long careers, and they were staunch and worthy adversaries. Bottos’s first jury trial as a young lawyer had been against Huyser-Wierenga, and they had faced each other in four others since. But the scope of this case was unique.
It was unusual to have so many serious and separate charges heard at once, but because the allegations were so similar, the Crown argued to have them tried together. Bottos, knowing how the sheer number of charges would look to a jury, had argued for each allegation to be tried separately. He felt confident that, tried one by one, McKnight would be found not guilty in every case.
Running 13 trials at once would be a challenge for both sides.
In addition to the sheer volume of information, the cases themselves were problematic. Most of the women had been drinking and their memories were poor. Sometimes, they had no memory at all. Several of the women said they believed they had been drugged, but there was no forensic evidence to prove it. By the time the cases went to trial, some of the allegations were nearly a decade old.
There was also no dispute the women and McKnight had engaged in sexual activity; the only question was whether it was consensual or whether McKnight could have reasonably believed it was. As in most sexual-assault cases, it would largely boil down to one person’s story against the other, what is commonly referred to as “he said, she said.” Or, in this case, “he said, they said.”
The Crown’s case against McKnight would rest largely on the testimonies of 12 women, one of whom would testify about her own experience and what she witnessed happen to a friend.
If the allegations were true, McKnight was a predator who had been sexually assaulting vulnerable women for years while they were seriously incapacitated by alcohol or a drug or both.
But to convict him, the Crown would have to prove that to 12 jurors in every case, beyond a reasonable doubt.
THE CASE FOR THE CROWN
On the morning of her testimony, Nancy dressed in a simple black dress and heels and faced herself in the mirror.
“Today is the day,” she told herself. “What is said here is going to make or break everything. And if he’s found not guilty, it’s going to make it all not worth it.”
The road to trial isn’t easy, and it’s far slower than many expect. It took more than a year for the charges against McKnight to get to a preliminary hearing, and more than two years after that to get to trial. The wait can feel interminable, suspending victims, witnesses and the accused in limbo, while the spectre of the trial looms over everything.
Those years had been the most difficult of Nancy’s life. She attempted suicide twice, drank too much at times, lost jobs and relationships. She became distrustful and afraid of people, especially men, and avoided them at work and on the street. Sometimes, when the doorbell rang, she hid in the closet with her dog.
It was the beginning of November, a month into the trial. The 25-year-old took her place alone in the witness box and looked out at the courtroom. There were the lawyers at their tables, the judge and court staff, reporters and spectators watching from the body of the courtroom. Her mother, aunt and boyfriend were there. McKnight sat beside his lawyer, studiously tapping notes on his laptop. Twelve jurors stared from the jury box.
“What brings you to court today?” Huyser-Wierenga asked.
It was the question that began each complainant’s testimony. Nancy took a deep breath. Her answer echoed those who had appeared before her and those who would come after.
“I was locked up and raped by Matthew McKnight.”
The women’s testimony stretched over eight straight weeks. Each story was different, but there were common threads woven between them.
All the women were young when it happened. Juliette was the youngest, at 17, Nancy the oldest at 22. Most were 18 or 19, petite and slender, sometimes less than 100 pounds, with a resemblance close enough to notice when they passed each other in the courthouse halls. Some came from the country or outlying communities and weren’t used to the city. All were new to the bar scene.
In every case, McKnight was older, more prominent, more powerful in every way.
The women testified about meeting him at the bar. How he flirted and sometimes they flirted back. They accepted a drink or drinks. Maybe they danced. Maybe they liked him.
All but two of the assaults were alleged to have happened in his downtown Edmonton condo, usually at after-parties. The women testified about walking through the alley, taking the elevator to Suite 405. Sometimes he was already wearing a onesie, or maybe he put one on at the apartment or asked them if they wanted to.
They recalled long blackouts, sometimes waking paralyzed, unable to walk or even move, unable to find their voice to speak or call for help, even as others partied outside the door.
The women didn’t know each other and had no connection to McKnight or any apparent reason to make up accusations about him. Many immediately told friends, family or boyfriends, and some searched for information about date-rape drugs, called the police or initiated sexual-assault examinations in the hours and days after leaving his apartment, even if they ultimately decided not to proceed.
“Matt told me it was my fault. I was just so ashamed,” one woman testified. She had gone to his after-party from work and had taken only a few sips of the drink he gave her before she got sick, then blacked out and awoke in his bed. “I felt like I must have done something wrong.”
“I didn’t think I was important. I didn’t think people would believe me,” another woman said. She’d been 19 at the time. “Then these other women came forward, and I thought, ‘How many more would and could there be if I don’t add my voice?’ And I wanted to protect those women. I felt those women were more significant than me.”
Cross-examination in a sexual-assault case can be brutal, but Bottos said he believed it was both necessary and justified. Wasn’t a bad day or two reasonable when testing allegations that could send someone to prison for years?
“If you’re going to allege something against somebody and change their lives, you have to stand up and face questioning before we let that happen,” he said, during an interview mid-trial. “I can’t think of any other way of doing it.”
His goal was to have his client found not guilty of all 13 charges, and the only way to do that was to cast doubt on each allegation, one by one.
Staring at the women over the tops of his eyeglasses, Bottos went over and over how many drinks they had, what they said or didn’t say in earlier statements, questioning every detail they recalled and didn’t.
He asked them about their lives, their bodies, even whether it was possible they showed signs of arousal that McKnight could have construed as consent. He zeroed in on gaps in their memories and inconsistencies in their stories, pulling at each detail and thread, picking at small holes until they gaped and glared. Some of the cross-examinations stretched over days, so intense that even observers in the courtroom had nightmares.
At times, the women cried and shook or lashed out in anger. In some cases, they became so distraught they were unable to speak, and Justice Doreen Sulyma had to break for them to compose themselves.
Some ran from the room in tears and could be heard sobbing in the Crown’s witness room.
Meanwhile, school groups filed in and out, teenagers and young adults filling the benches to learn about the court system and see it in action.
“Have you ever been sexually assaulted? Have you?” Sarah asked Bottos during one exchange, her voice rising to fill the courtroom.
“I get to ask the questions, ma’am,” he replied.
THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
On Nov. 25, 2019, McKnight took his place in the witness box.
The Crown’s case had run for eight weeks, and included testimony from sexual-assault nurses and friends of the women, some of whom said they believed that they, too, had been drugged in McKnight’s apartment. RCMP toxicologist Gillian Sayer testified about the effects of the drug GHB, including physical impairment, blackouts and memory loss. The drug is colourless, odourless and has only a faint taste, and it is rapidly eliminated from the body, meaning it’s often untraceable, even within hours. While it’s sometimes taken recreationally, Sayer said its qualities make it better known as a “date-rape drug.”
Where the women had large gaps in their memories, McKnight’s recollections of the nights in question were perfect – too perfect, the Crown would argue. He estimated he’d had sex with between 200 and 300 women in the six-year span of the charges, yet he retained an exacting recollection of each encounter. He remembered exactly how they met, how much each woman had to drink, what she drank, when and where he touched her, exactly what was said.
He recalled the sound of a new bottle cracking open, the “light hand massage” he said he gave one woman.
The nights were, in many ways, the same as the women described them. But in his version, no one was crying. Nobody ran out of his apartment into the freezing winter night without their boots on or passed out on the floor of his bathroom in their own vomit and menstrual blood.
Where the women had choked out their stories, weeping as they described their fear, panic and violation, McKnight’s accounts of the same nights were coolly narrated stories of attraction, flirtation and seduction.
Where she said: “I didn’t know if I was going to die. I was not in control of my body,” he said, “I got the vibe that we liked each other.”
Where she said: “I remember him trying to roll me around because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t find my voice,” he said, “I felt we had chemistry.”
Where she said: “I had no control over anything. I wasn’t able to function,” he said, “She definitely knew and enjoyed what was happening at the time.”
He admitted he was shallow and hedonistic – a “male slut,” even – but maintained it was never more than that.
McKnight testified for eight days, his accounts detailed and unchanging, his emotions rising only under heavy questioning by the Crown.
“The women are mistaken or lying,” he said. “I did not sexually assault any of these women.”
He said he’d never used GHB himself and swore he never drugged anyone.
Backing up McKnight’s claims were several of his friends, who between them also vividly recalled each night and each woman, confirming key details in his testimony. Some testified they’d even walked into the bedroom by accident and that what they saw appeared consensual.
McKnight’s former roommate Kyle Anderson – owner of Privilege Parties, Privilege Productions and Privilege Modeling – recalled several of the women, saying they seemed to be enjoying his friend’s company, including making “sounds of a sexual nature” in the bedroom next door.
In cross-examination, he defended a series of vulgar and derogatory statements he’d tweeted about women, including one that said: “There’s no such thing as rape. … Just ‘Surprise Sex.‘ ”
“Comedy is purely subjective,” he told the court. “I don’t see the relevance of this or how it pertains to my testimony or my memory.”
A female bartender at Knoxville’s, who sometimes slept at McKnight’s condo after work, said the women she saw going in and out of his bedroom were always “overly happy, if anything.” She speculated the allegations came from “husbands and boyfriends putting them up to it.”
“I myself am a victim of sexual assault,” she said. “So I take this seriously.”
By the time closing arguments began in January, the McKnight trial had gone more than a month longer than planned, and the jury was down to 10. Losing another juror could put the case in serious jeopardy and even cause a mistrial.
With 63 days of testimony about 13 separate assaults, 21 witnesses for the Crown and 16 for the defence, the details were complicated, but the arguments were simple.
Prosecutors Huyser-Wierenga and Fraser urged the jury to believe the women. Any inconsistencies or lapses in memory, they said, were entirely consistent with people who had experienced trauma and who were drinking and, in some cases, drugged. They argued the detailed and impeccable recollections of McKnight and his friends were not believable and were fabricated around the women’s testimony at the preliminary hearing.
“I suggest he has carefully memorized his script of these 12 incidents,” Fraser told the jury in the Crown’s two-day closing argument. “Every detail is remembered by McKnight.”
In a closing that spanned four days, Bottos went again through each allegation in minute detail.
He argued a woman who had been telling people in the bar scene that McKnight drugged and raped women had become “patient zero” in a dangerous rumour, which exploded in the #MeToo environment, fuelled by gossip, social-media mobs and a shoddy police investigation. He said the announcement of the first three charges established McKnight as a threat and that the women who came forward after that were either lying or recasting their experiences, having “buyer’s remorse” about an encounter with a man now publicly accused of being a predator.
“It’s hard to say, ‘I was his lover,’ ” Bottos told the jury. “It’s easier to say, ‘I was his victim.’ ”
With one of the remaining jurors due at a family funeral, court sat through the weekend, and Justice Sulyma delivered her 88-page charge to the jury late into a cold winter night.
How does a jury decide who and what to believe?
Courts in Canada have long identified myths and stereotypes around sexual assault, and factors such as how someone was dressed and what they did or didn’t do after the assault are no longer acceptable ways to discredit someone. It is to be accepted that there’s no one way a “real victim” would act.
But while defence lawyers can no longer cross-examine on these myths, and judges and juries aren’t supposed to consider them, long-standing misconceptions, biases and judgments aren’t always easy to identify, let alone overcome.
The presumption of innocence is one of the cornerstones of the justice system, and to convict, each juror must be convinced of guilt in each charge. There’s a saying that standards are high to convict the guilty as a safeguard against convicting the innocent. Except in Alberta, where known innocent people are imprisoned and records proving them innocent are intentionally withheld from their lawyers.
On the morning of the third day, the five men and five women considering the McKnight case filed grimly back into the jury box.
“Have you arrived at a verdict?” the clerk asked.
The foreman stood.
“We have,” he said.
Juliette was at her boyfriend’s house getting ready for work when she got a text from her sister, who was following reporters live-tweeting from inside the courtroom.
“GUILTY ON 5 counts. You did it,” Juliette’s sister wrote, adding a string of emoji faces. Some were weeping, others surrounded by hearts. “He was found guilty on yours.”
The jury had found McKnight guilty of five charges and not guilty of eight.
Juliette walked to her shift at the coffee shop processing it all. She was in a mall pedway when Huyser-Wierenga called. Her sister was mistaken – McKnight had been found not guilty in her case.
“How could this happen?” Juliette asked. Soon she was sobbing into the phone. She thought the jury had understood and saw she was doing her best. Why would anyone put themselves through that if it wasn’t true?
“What is the point?” she cried. “What have I been fighting for?”
Nancy was walking through her living room with a cup of coffee when her phone rang. When Huyser-Wierenga said McKnight had been convicted of sexually assaulting her, she fell to the floor, the cup clattering down, glass smashing and coffee spilling all around.
Sarah, the only one of the women in the courtroom for the verdicts, left in tears. He’d been found not guilty of assaulting her, too.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” she said, her hand trembling as she pushed the button for the elevator.
Angie learned about her case by text. Not guilty.
“What do you think it was?” she asked. “Was it something about me?”
On July 8, McKnight will be back in court to be sentenced on five counts of sexual assault. It will be nearly four years since he was charged. He’s been out on bail since his initial release, living in the same condo. Down the alley, the bar that had been Knoxville’s is boarded up and closed.
Sentences for a major sexual assault start at about three years in prison and can increase if the judge finds aggravating factors, such as drugging. The sentencing hearing is slated to last three days.
Bottos, Huyser-Wierenga and Fraser all say they’ve been unable to make sense of the verdicts or discern any pattern among the convictions. There are no clear divisions in background, behaviour or circumstance. In Canada, jury deliberations are secret and remain so forever. How and why the jury arrived at each verdict will never be known.
At the sentencing, the five women deemed by the jury to be victims of McKnight can read their victim impact statements. The other eight women have no standing at the hearing, but can observe like any member of the public.
Nancy has been thinking for a long time about what she’ll say. She worries about how she could possibly explain it all. She’s tried many times to write it down, but the paper always ends up drenched in tears.
“I want to look him in the eyes,” she says. “I want him to know how this has changed my life.”
Even though she won’t have a chance to speak, Juliette wants to see him, too. She says she wants to show him that he didn’t win, that no matter what, their voices counted for something. That they stopped him, all of them together. The women have remarkable courage and integrity. I could not have done what they did.
She’s trying to think about what else she can do after that. Ways she could change things to make it better for other women like her, for women like all of them.
Then, maybe, it will feel like justice.
Refer also to:
“It’s the judges!” enabling rape and murder of women. No kidding. In Canada too.
Investigation finds one of Australia’s most powerful men, “Sex Pest” former high court judge, Dyson Heydon, sexually harassed judicial clerks and women lawyers – WHILE HE WAS TOP JUDGE!
Misogynistic Justice. Rapist after rapist set free by Canadian judges. Think those judges will let you seek justice if your water is frac’d by Encana, covered-up by authorities with AER violating your Charter rights trying to terrify you into submissive silence, enabled by Supreme Court of Canada?
Is Canada “a pedophile’s paradise?” Appeal court cuts child molester’s ‘unduly long and harsh’ sentence (too short to begin with given the lasting harms inflicted to children!) in half.
“Unf*ck the system.” Alberta’s Neanderthal “Justice” system assaults sexual assault victims. “The judge in this troubling case was none other than former Deputy Justice Minister Ray Bodnarek, a PC loyalist appointed as a judge by former PC Justice Minister Jonathan Denis who himself resigned under troubling allegations of domestic violence.” Commenter: “So who exactly is the crown protecting by blocking the publication of the victim’s name?” Another commenter: “My guess…..the ‘system’. It stinks and it’s all because of the judges & lawyers.”
“You never really get over it.” Montana pedophile (repeat offender like Epstein) facing 60 counts of child sex abuse (including rape) given gift of 1-year “Deferred” sentence in plea deal; the judges involved need to be fired and the lawyers disbarred. Georgia pedophile sentenced for 1,000 years, “probably the most prolific collector of child pornography in the entire world” gets out after appeals court says he’s served enough time (a measily 8 years). Berlin authorities knowingly sent children to live with pedophiles for decades, new report reveals while Ontario’s Law Society licences known convicted pedophiles (to get them on the bench?).
Caveman Canada’s misogynistic law & politics enables rape, yet again. Message to victims? Shut-up! Ontario drops appeal of Justice Beaudouin’s aquittals of Paul Batchelor, accused serial rapist; Ontario court grants him bail while he awaits trial on 9 new separate counts of sexual assault. What will Quebec court do?
If raped or frac’d and not rich or powerful, we get betrayed and abused by judges, lawyers, and the predator-led judicial industry
Humanity on a roll – backwards: 91% of men, 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights. Almost one third of men and women think it’s OK for a man to beat his wife. How many think it’s OK for men to rape & murder women? Too many judges do.
How many Canadian women and children must endure rape and or physical abuse and sexually transmitted diseases to keep the oil patch rolling?
Time to Boycott Rape Culture Alberta! X-Site (‘Excite’) Energy Ltd. decal depicting rape of Greta Thunberg printed, distributed *without her consent,* posted to X-Site’s Facebook, Instagram; denied after public outrage; next a feeble apology. Canada’s oil patch collared RCMP, as expected, say the decal is acceptable. Gotta let the oil boys satisfy their penis’ wants, no matter how abusive or violent, to keep profits rolling in for the rich.
“When judges don’t know the meaning of rape, there is little hope of justice” never mind that some (one is too many) are racist misogynistic bigoted troglodytes in society’s “Upside Down of Patriarchy.” What if judges are appointed because they’re alleged rapists or known by their peers to be rapists?
Why wasn’t Nova Scotia legal profession’s most infamous sexual predator and Premier, Gerald Regan, disbarred? Simple: 1) He was a man in Caveman Canada; 2) He was a lawyer in Caveman Canada; 3) He was in a position of power in Caveman Canada; 4) “Justice” is not available for raped women (or the environment) in Caveman Canada, just expensive lawyers. How many predator lawyers did this predator politician elevate to the bench?
The legal games rape on, enabled by judges & lawyers; Weinstein reaches $25m settlement with more than 30 women, he won’t have to pay anything to his accusers or admit any wrongdoing. That’s a great deal, for him (and the lawyers).
Canadian misogynistic “justice” ensures rapist paradise. Accused serial rapist Paul Batchelor, let off by Justice Beaudoin (elevated to the bench by Harper gov’t), arrested after three new rape charges; now awaits trials involving nine women who don’t know one another.
Know my Name. A Memoir. Chanel Miller. Horrific Sexual Assault. “Rape is rape.” Another Judge Protecting the Rapist. Magnificent Courage. Magnificent Writing.
Would Justice Robert Beaudoin have let the rapist off if his daughter was one of the women raped? Ontario Crown serves Paul Batchelor notice of appeal, claims trial judge made errors. Errors or misogyny?
What’s with so many judges not keeping their lips together? Protecting rape & pedophilia rings? How are citizens to trust & respect judges with so many bad lips on the bench? “That judge didn’t care about me,” Julie Kirby, 23, one of Keith Vallejo’s victims said Friday. “He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable.”
Why does Canada not sack bad judges? Do bad judges fill a niche that Rape & Pillage Canada Needs? UK Judge sacked for trolling people on online news stories, posting abusive comments about cases he was involved in
Dear Nova Scotia: “Boys will be boys.” Call it by its name. White Male Terrorism. Misogynistic Violence. Femicides run rampant in rural Canada; Misogyny seethes in our politicians, the judges they appoint, our police, regulators, academia, the legal industry, oil & gas industry …
Gillian Hnatiw, Canadian lawyer, female: “Fundamentally, the law is about power – who has it, who gets it, and how they are allowed to wield it. … Yet evidence of misogyny remains all around us.
Law Society of Ontario a Pedophile Ring? Racism, misogyny *and* enabling sexual abuse of children? Ottawa lawyer, John David Coon, in custody for sex crimes against four-year old daughter of one of his clients. Law Society documents reveal they gave Coon licence to practise law despite knowing of his prior criminal conviction for sexually assaulting another child.
… According to the Law Society, Coon, who ran a practice specializing in child protection….
That ruling revealed a history of sexual misconduct, and even a previous conviction for sexually assaulting a child.
… Law Society documents related to that suspension also revealed that Coon was given a licence to practise law in Ontario despite a history that included a prior guilty verdict for sexually assaulting a child.
According to the documents, Coon revealed in 2004 to the Law Society that he had been found guilty of sexually assaulting a friend’s 12-year-old daughter in 1991.
Coon was given a conditional discharge and 15 months’ probation, meaning he wouldn’t have a criminal record….