Notice of appeal filed to Supreme Court after Sask. sex assault conviction overturned
A new trial was ordered for Awet Mehari after the Sask. Court of Appeal overturned guilty conviction
Saskatchewan's highest court ordered a new trial last month for Awet Mehari after it overturned the finding of guilt in a sexual assault case, but now the appeal court's decision may be considered by the highest court in the country.
Dean Sinclair, director of appeals with Public Prosecutions, confirmed Tuesday that a notice of appeal has been filed with the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mehari is alleged to have sexually assaulted a sleeping woman in 2017. His trial-by-judge took place in January 2019 at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. The trial judge found him guilty, saying Mehari's alleged actions met the bar for what's classified as a "major sexual assault."
Five months later, he was sentenced to three years in prison. He was later released on bail after appealing the decision.
Mehari's appeal was heard by a panel of three judges in January 2020. During the appeal, Mehari's lawyer Aaron Fox suggested the trial judge made several errors in her judgment. He also suggested the sex could have been consensual and questioned witness reliability.
The Crown argued that Mehari was the unreliable witness, suggesting his testimony at the trial appeared rehearsed. He said the judge's findings — that the complainant was sleeping at the time of the alleged assault — left no room for a finding of consent, nor reasonable doubt.
The appeal was allowed, but that decision was not unanimous. Justice Robert Leurer dissented, saying the appeal should have been dismissed.
"While Mr. Mehari has persuaded me that the trial judge erred by applying uneven scrutiny in her assessment of credibility, he has not persuaded me that the trial judge's conclusions cannot be supported on a reasonable view of the evidence," Leurer said in his 27-page opinion.
There's no word yet on when the Supreme Court will hear the case.