Nova Scotia

Woman testifies about alleged sexual assault by former SMU groundskeeper

A 22-year-old woman who was allegedly assaulted by former SMU groundskeeper Matthew Percy testified in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday.

WARNING: This story contains graphic and disturbing content

Matthew Percy is on trial in Halifax provincial court. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

A 22-year-old woman sobbed as she watched a video of her alleged sexual assault played three times in Halifax provincial court on Tuesday during the sexual assault trial of Matthew Percy.

Percy, 35, is facing three separate allegations of sexual assault, each involving a different woman. The alleged incidents happened at different times and are being dealt with in separate trials.

The woman, who testified Tuesday that she was sexually assaulted last September at the Halifax apartment of Percy, a former Saint Mary's University groundskeeper, said she "just wanted to get out of there alive." Her identity is protected by a publication ban.

The woman testified she met Percy on the university campus, where she was a student and he was a groundskeeper at the time.

She told court she had about three casual conversations with Percy from the time she met him in the spring of 2017 until the night of the alleged incident.

The woman said early on Sept. 2, she and Percy talked about how they had each made separate plans to go downtown that evening. They exchanged phone numbers and he suggested they could meet up.

Drinking downtown

The woman testified she went downtown with a friend on the evening of Sept. 2 after consuming about two beers. She described herself as a "lightweight" who seldom drank.

She and her friend ended up at Durty Nelly's, a bar in downtown Halifax. There, she said she encountered Percy, who was with another man. The four of them sat together and talked until the woman's friend said she was going to another bar. The woman opted to stay behind with Percy and his friend.

She said she had bought herself a bottle of beer and that Percy subsequently bought her three more large draft. She said she knew she was impaired, and later testified that she could smell alcohol oozing from her pores the next morning.

Eventually, the three of them went to the Liquor Dome, a nearby bar. The woman testified that at that point, she said she wouldn't drink any more. However, she told court that someone bought a round of shots, and her friend would tell her later that she downed a shot of tequila.

Percy is on trial in Halifax provincial court for sexual assault. (Matthew Percy/Facebook)

The woman said at that point, she was feeling very sleepy and just wanted to go home. She said Percy offered to share a cab with her, as they didn't live far apart.

The woman said she told the cabbie to drive to her home first, then to Percy's. She said Percy changed that instruction and they ended up at his apartment. She said he invited her in for wine, but she said she wouldn't drink any more alcohol. He then offered her a glass of water, which she accepted.

'No sex tonight'

Throughout almost all of her testimony, the woman maintained a calm, steady voice as she recounted events to Crown attorney Rick Woodburn. Percy alternated between keeping his head down, writing notes and staring directly at the complainant on the stand.

The woman said she became concerned when Percy started massaging her feet. She had removed her high heels when she entered his apartment.

"I was a bit weirded out by it," she testified.

She said they were sitting at opposite ends of his couch in the living room when he suddenly lunged and was on top of her, kissing her.

She said she kept telling herself, "I have to get home."

The woman said Percy picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. She said she was still fully clothed, but he had stripped down to his boxers.

The woman said she kept repeating, "No sex tonight. No sex tonight."

She said Percy replied, "Yeah, that's fine. That's completely fine."

She said Percy placed his mouth on her crotch. She said he kept asking her if she had an orgasm, and she decided to fake one to stop the situation. She said she did, then lay limp on his bed. She said the next thing she knew, he was forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

She said Percy had his hand on the back of her head, his fingers wound in her hair, forcing her down. She said she couldn't breathe and was straining to lift up, but couldn't. She said she thought she was going to throw up.

Video played in court

The video shown in court on Tuesday was found on Percy's cellphone by an RCMP tech crime expert who testified on Monday that it was recorded using the phone's camera.

The Crown apologized before showing the video, and some of the woman's supporters left the courtroom before it was played.

The woman sobbed and shook as she watched herself on screen and said the video made her feel "violated," "disgusted" and "embarrassed."

During cross-examination, the video was played twice more as the defence lawyer tried to establish whether Percy was wearing pants during part of the encounter and to clarify what the woman and Percy were saying.

The woman confirmed she heard the man in the video saying "take off these pants of mine" and that she heard herself giggle. She also confirmed that at no point in the video did she say "no."

The woman testified she had no idea Percy was using a camera and she did not consent to being recorded. She said she only learned the video existed in December, three months after the incident.

"I was saying no to sex, why would I say yes to video?" she told the court.

"I said no many times and he kept pushing and he kept pushing, breaking those boundaries every step of the way."