Winnipeg man rebuilding life after year in custody

A Winnipeg man who was identified by police as a sexual assault suspect says he spent almost a year in custody to fight the charges against him, only to have those charges stayed.

Charges stayed against Antoine Drummond, who was accused of sexual assault

Antoine Drummond, a Winnipeg man who was identified by police as a sexual assault suspect, says he spent almost a year in custody to fight the charges against him only to have those charges stayed. 1:48

A Winnipeg man who was identified by police as a sexual assault suspect says he spent almost a year in custody to fight the charges against him, only to have those charges stayed.

"I was just dumbfounded, you know? I was like, 'This is the system?'" Antoine Drummond told CBC News on Tuesday, weeks after he was released from custody.

Drummond has been trying to clear his name since city police released a surveillance-camera image of a suspect in a sexual assault and robbery last spring.

The man in the image looked like Drummond, and he said others started accusing him of being the suspect.

Drummond told CBC News in June 2012 that he tried to turn himself in to police, after the photograph was sent to media outlets.

At the time, officers initially turned Drummond away and said they weren't looking for him, he said.

Maintains his innocence

Drummond was later arrested and charged with sexual assault and theft under $5,000. He said he spent 11½ months at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, where he has maintained his innocence.

When asked on Tuesday if he was involved in the sexual assault, Drummond replied, "No. Like, there was no sexual assault whatsoever. There was no stealing from her, there was no nothing."

The alleged victim did not show up for Drummond's court hearing late last month, and the charges against him were stayed and he was freed.

But Drummond said he's facing another fight: one to clear his name in the public, as the surveillance-camera image remains in online news stories about the police investigation.

"I just know that people are probably Googling my name and then bam! It comes up: 'Sex offender sought,'" he said.

'I'm tainted material'

Drummond said he's just trying to rebuild his life. He said he cannot get a job, despite having 20 years of experience in the construction industry.

"It's not my fault that now I'm set back 10 years," he said. "Who's going to want me, you know? I'm tainted material."

Matthew Gould, Drummond's lawyer, said his client made bail in August 2012 but he could not come up with enough funds.

Gould said it is not uncommon for people to wait in custody for this long.

"I think it's very concerning for all defence lawyers," he said.

"An individual who is trying to fight the charge from the first day, who has maintained his innocence from the first day, ends up spending 11 months waiting in custody in order to get to the point where he's able to fight it."

While the charges against Drummond are stayed, the Crown can reopen the case at any time.