Nova Scotia

Chapel Island chief found guilty of sexual assault

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury in Halifax took just under three hours Monday to find a Cape Breton Mi'kmaq chief guilty of sexual assault.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury in Halifax took a little less than three hours Monday to find a Cape Breton Mi'kmaq chief guilty of sexual assault.

Chapel Island Chief Wilbert Marshall, 39, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in a Dartmouth hotel room in the spring of 2006. Marshall will be sentenced March 20.

The defence and prosecution lawyers gave their closing arguments to the jury Monday.

In his final argument to the jury, defence lawyer Joel Pink described the case as one of "he said, she said."

Pink told the jurors they should believe Marshall, who testified that the woman consented to having sex with him. Pink said although the woman testified that she did not remember consenting, that doesn't mean she did not agree to have sex.

There was no evidence that force had been used, Pink told the jurors. He said the woman's clothing was not torn, and there was no medical evidence to show the sex was not consensual.

The pair had been drinking together before going to the hotel room, court heard.

Crown attorney Perry Borden said the woman doesn't remember getting to the hotel or giving consent to sexual activity. She only remembers waking up with a sheet over her face, Borden said, and Marshall having sex with her. It was only later that she discovered she had a black eye.

"When was the last time you went out partying and ended up with a black eye and have no idea how you got it?" Borden asked the jury.

"If you don't remember getting to a hotel and giving consent, then it's not consent."

The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon.

Marshall will be automatically removed from office.

Natalie Nepton, a spokeswoman with the federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department, said last week that the consequences of a conviction would be immediate.

"It is not discretionary; it is clear. The actual wording of the Indian Act is that the office of the chief or councillor of a band becomes vacant when the person who holds that office is convicted of an indictable offence," she said.