Nova Scotia

Matthew Percy found guilty of sexually assaulting woman in Halifax dorm

Matthew Percy was found guilty Friday of sexually assaulting a woman in her Halifax university dorm room in 2014, after a judge found her evidence "reliable and consistent."

WARNING: Some of the content in the story may be disturbing

Matthew Percy is shown outside a Halifax provincial court courtroom on June 19, 2018. He has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in her dorm in 2014. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Matthew Percy was found guilty Friday of sexually assaulting a woman in her Halifax university dorm room in 2014, after a judge found her evidence "reliable and consistent."

Justice Josh Arnold delivered his decision in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday afternoon, five months after lawyers laid out closing arguments in the case.

Arnold said he would not be reading through his entire 70-page document in court, but his "bottom line" decision is that he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Percy caused bodily harm to the victim during the sexual assault.

Percy, a former Saint Mary's University groundskeeper, had pleaded not guilty to sexual assault causing bodily harm and was being tried by judge alone.

The incident happened in December 2014 at a Dalhousie University residence.

What the judge said

The crux of the case rested on whether there was sexual activity that the then-19-year-old woman did not consent to.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, told the court her memory of the night she met Percy is patchy as she'd been drinking and so much time has passed. But she was adamant that he sexually assaulted her and that the attack left her with bruises and bite marks. She went to police two days later.

At the time, Halifax police closed the file without charges after a month. They then re-examined the case three years later after Percy was charged with sexually assaulting two other women.

The victim and Percy described various examples of sexual activity that happened during the incident. In his decision, Arnold said he was convinced Percy had "forced" non-consensual anal sex with the victim in the bathroom, and non-consensual vaginal intercourse with her afterwards in the shower.

Arnold said he found the victim's evidence "credible, reliable and consistent" around those specific acts. He is also "equally sure" there was no honest but mistaken belief in consent for both of those activities.

Percy, who was 31 at the time of the assault, would have been able to see that the victim was crying and hear her say no, Arnold wrote. He left the young woman "traumatized, obviously bruised" and so sore she could not sit down for two days, Arnold wrote.

The judge rejected Percy's claims that he had asked the victim for anal sex, or that she eventually agreed.

Police statements

Even in his own police statements, Arnold said Percy described his need to "control, dominate and humiliate [the victim] for his own sexual gratification."

Defence lawyer Peter Planetta argued the complainant's memory was inconsistent and suggested she at times had "convenient memory loss." However, Crown attorney Rick Woodburn said while the woman might not have remembered "minor things" like walking with Percy for poutine, her focus was "laser sharp" during the sexual assault.

Woodburn said the victim's memory was naturally more focused on the moments when she was experiencing violence and that her descriptions of it were "unwavering."

"I said no so many times. He did not stop," the victim testified.

Percy did not testify in his own defence, but the Crown introduced an interview he did with police in 2014. In it, Percy told a Halifax Regional Police investigator that the sexual encounter was "rough" but consensual, and that the complainant kept saying, "Take me."

He also told police the woman initially told him no when he suggested anal sex, but agreed after he pleaded with her.

Crown seeking 'substantial federal sentence'

Although the defence had argued the woman's injuries may have been caused when she fell that night, Woodburn said it was "very obvious" Percy caused the injuries when taking into account her roommate's testimony about hearing the sound of slapping and the sexual assault nurse examiner's evidence about finding bite marks and finger-shaped bruises on her body.

Woodburn said in court Friday the Crown will be seeking a "substantial federal sentence" for Percy, as well as a sex offender assessment.

Planetta has also requested a pre-sentence report, which are both due a few weeks before Percy's sentencing date on Nov. 27.

He said in an email that "we are obviously disappointed with the decision. We will review it carefully in the coming weeks and prepare for our next steps."

Percy has been remanded back into custody to await his sentence.

Percy's other trials

This is Percy's second sexual assault conviction, and four women have accused Percy of the crime.

In an email after court ended for the day, Woodburn said "the trauma to the victim is not only physical but sustained and lasting psychological and emotional harm.

"The victims of Mr. Percy have all displayed a strong resolve to leave behind the trauma in order to start rebuilding their lives. They all agree that the court process is long, arduous and emotionally painful, however, each felt that the ability to tell their story has allowed for some measure of finality to allow the healing to begin."

In 2018, Percy was convicted of sexually assaulting a Saint Mary's student and recording part of the encounter on his phone. In another trial involving a different woman, he was acquitted of sexual assault and voyeurism.

In the fourth case, Percy is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking to overcome resistance and assault in related to an incident in 2013 involving a woman he knew.

That case is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

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