ns-hi-lyle-howe-nov29-4col

Lyle Howe is due in court in January to face a charge of sexual assault. (CBC)

A Halifax lawyer elected trial by judge and jury Thursday on a sexual assault charge.

Lyle Howe, 27, is one of two people charged with sexual assault and administering a noxious substance to a woman eight months ago.

Jeffrey Kendall Brown, 28, faces the same charges, and both men are scheduled to appear on Jan. 6 in provincial court.

Brown also faces a charge of theft under $5,000.

A 20-year-old woman alleged she was assaulted on March 21.

Howe also faces a charge of uttering threats after an alleged incident in a courthouse holding cell.

His lawyer, Shawna Hoyte, said in court that Howe is pleading not guilty to that charge, which is scheduled to go to trial on March 16.

Outside court, Crown attorney Andre Arseneau of Sydney, N.S., said he is overseeing the case to avoid a perception of bias.

"To ensure fairness of a trial for every accused, we make sure that there's no perception of unfairness and in these circumstances it's appropriate to have a Crown attorney from outside the region prosecute the matters," he said.