Safeway guard cleared of 6 out of 7 charges
Former Safeway security guard James Carlson has been found not guilty on six of the seven charges laid against him, which included sexual assault, unlawful confinement and kidnapping.
The jury was hung, however, on the extortion charge laid against Carlson.
Carlson was accused of holding a 15-year-old girl against her will and asking her to perform sexual acts after she was caught stealing a chocolate bar from the Westmount Safeway in July 2010.
Carlson's family and supporters hugged each other as the verdict was read out, while friends and family of the teen were visibly upset, with some supporters storming out of the courtroom.
It ultimately came down to a question of whose story the jury believed, said Carlson’s lawyer Shawn Gerstel.
"It really comes down to the testimony of all witnesses, especially in a he-said, she-said," said Gerstel. "If the crown witnesses are not credible, it maybe makes it a lit bit easier to find a person not guilty — but it really comes down to the evidence on both sides."
Gerstel said his client is happy to be free of the restricting conditions he has faced for the last three years since the accusations were first made.
"He was overwhelmed with emotion," said Gerstel. "He certainly started to tear up a little bit and it’s understandable under the circumstances. This has been going on for almost three years now, so he’s certainly happy to get most of this behind him."
"You’re not a free person even though you’re not in custody. And on top of that, you have the emotional stress as well — to have these serious charges hanging over you... is overwhelming," he said.
Gerstel said he was surprised the jury was hung on the extortion charge, however.
He says the decision to retry the hung verdict now falls to the crown prosecutor, who has 30 days to decide if he will appeal.