Former Calgary bus driver Paul Desmarais made the sign of the cross Friday after a judge found him not guilty of sexual assault charges. He then embraced three sobbing members of his family who had been in the gallery.
Desmarais was on trial for sexual assault, sexual interference with a child under 16 and sexual contact with a youth by a person in authority. He was 53 at the time he befriended a 14-year-old passenger in September 2007.
The complainant was also in the courtroom along with two supporters and left quickly after the decision.
2 years, 2 routes
In his decision, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld reviewed the evidence, which focussed on the testimony of both Desmarais and the complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
The relationship spanned a couple of years and two bus routes.
The young woman said Desmarais began grooming her for a relationship by showing her a naked photo of himself in 2007.
Desmarais denied a sexual relationship. He painted the complainant as a stalker who had, at one point, asked him "to be her first," which he says he rejected.
The bus driver said the girl struck him as lonely and without many friends. He said she would stay on his bus past her stop.
'Odd but not implausible'
At one point, Desmarais told the girl she would have to stop riding his bus but he admitted he never told a superior about the girl.
The judge found Desmarais's version "odd but it is not implausible."
Although the girl knew many personal details about Desmarais, it was information he says he also shared with other passengers.
Neufeld found the complainant's testimony was "impressive in detail" and said she demonstrated a "keen intellect," but said he did have credibility concerns.
The young woman said some of the sexual touching happened while Desmarais was driving and she was standing beside him.
The judge found it "improbable if not implausible" Desmarais could have manoeuvred a large transit bus with one hand while groping the alleged victim with the other without other passengers noticing.
During his testimony, the former bus driver, who is now in his 60s, said he had "lost everything" since he was charged.