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Judge acquits SMU groundskeeper in sexual assault case

Matthew Albert Percy
RYAN TAPLIN
Matthew Albert Percy RYAN TAPLIN - The Chronicle Herald

HALIFAX, N.S. — A Halifax judge has acquitted a former Saint Mary's University groundskeeper of an alleged sexual assault last year.

Matthew Albert Percy was charged with sexual assault, voyeurism and overcoming resistance by choking. It was alleged the 35-year-old man sexually assaulted a woman at a home in the Armdale area on Sept. 3, 2017.

Following a lengthy trial earlier this year, a provincial court judge found Percy not guilty of all three counts Friday.

Even with the acquittals, though, Percy remains behind bars — he's facing three additional and separate sexual assault trials.

In this case, the court heard that Percy and the complainant met a few times before they exchanged numbers and met downtown one night in September 2017.

The woman's name is protected under a publication ban.

The 22-year-old complainant said she and Percy went to a few bars, then decided to leave. They were going to share a cab home.

While recapping the case, Judge Bill Digby said the pair ended up at Percy's home. The complainant said he was massaging her feet and then starting kissing her before lifting her up and carrying her into his bedroom, where she said he preformed non-consensual sex acts on her.

Some of what happened was recorded and played during his trial.

When rendering his decision, the judge said there was no reason to question the complainant's motives but said at one point during the recorded video, there was giggling and that some actions seemed voluntary.

Digby said the complainant "holds the belief she was sexually assaulted" but that the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The video itself from our point was never consensual and it took different forms. It didn't video the entire event,'' said Crown attorney Rick Woodburn.

"It was cut up in certain ways, in our view at least, to make it look like it was consensual.''

Despite the not guilty verdicts, Woodburn said he applauded the victim, and that she "did an excellent job coming forward.''

"After talking to her, she was happy that she was able to tell her story. Even to come forward and tell her story was something she wanted to do, even before the verdict came. When she was finished, she felt justice had been served through the process,'' he said.

Woodburn said sexual assaults are always difficult to prosecute.

"The standard is high, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. It applies to all people,'' he said

"If anybody is charged with a crime, the level of proof that the Crown has to go through in order to make sure somebody is found guilty is high and in Canada, that's the level of proof that we want for each person.''

Woodburn said both the Crown attorney's office and the police take sexual assault allegations very seriously and spend a lot of time with the victims to ensure they are part of the processes, so they can tell their story.

"An acquittal does not mean that you are not telling the truth,'' said Woodburn. ``It just means that we haven't proven it beyond a reasonable doubt.''

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