Judge says former brewery owner 'probably guilty' of sexual assault, but acquits him
Frank D'Angelo was found not guilty Tuesday of sexually assaulting a longtime friend's daughter by a judge who nevertheless said the former brewery owner is "probably" guilty.
The now 22-year-old woman accused D'Angelo of grabbing her, stripping her and forcing her to have sex in a hotel room in June 2007.
D'Angelo, who turns 50 this week, maintained the sex was consensual.
On Tuesday, Justice John Hamilton said he found the evidence of both D'Angelo and his accuser credible. But in handing down his ruling, Hamilton added D'Angelo "may be" or is "probably" guilty of the crime.
Outside court, D'Angelo's lawyer, Gary Clewley, dismissed the judge's comment and stressed that his client had been acquitted.
"We're out here on the street … and that's what really matters," Clewley said.
"A guy was found not guilty and in this country it means he didn't do it."
D'Angelo, the former owner of Steelback Brewery who once employed disgraced Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson to pitch his juice company's Cheetah energy drinks, said it had been a long two years.
"I'm sorry to everybody that we all went through this and I'm glad that it's over and hopefully it's over for everybody," he told reporters outside court.
"I would appreciate you guys use a little decorum ; I'm a little emotional."
D'Angelo testified during the one-day trial that the sexual encounter with the woman less than half his age, whom he had known since she was a child, was the "biggest mistake" of his life. He maintained it was consensual.
"I told the truth and justice was served," D'Angelo said Tuesday.
Court heard that the woman, from Aurora, Ont., met D'Angelo for lunch that day in hopes of landing a job as an events co-ordinator at the Steelback Grand Prix, which the brewery was sponsoring.
Woman testified she asked D'Angelo to stop
Both she and D'Angelo testified that after lunch they went up to his hotel room. She said she went into the bathroom and when she came out he was on the bed. She alleged he positioned himself on top of her and raped her, even as she was pleading with him to stop.
It lasted about an hour, she testified, and afterward he masturbated and took a shower while she remained in the room and got dressed.
The only injury she testified she received was a bump on the head from D'Angelo allegedly pulling her hair.
D'Angelo, meanwhile, said the woman laid beside him on the bed and kissed him, then they had consensual sex. He testified he never forced her to have sex with him and didn't pull her hair.
Hamilton said there was little evidence for him to consider other than the two stories.
"I am faced with one witness against another," he said in delivering his verdict. "[But] the issue before me is not whose version of events is true," rather whether a reasonable doubt was raised.
Hamilton said he was left with reasonable doubt and therefore delivered a not guilty verdict.
D'Angelo has gained significant public exposure by appearing in ads for Steelback and D'Angelo Brands, a juice and energy-drink maker. Johnson appeared in ads with D'Angelo for Cheetah Power Surge, proclaiming: "I Cheetah all the time."
D'Angelo sold his majority stake in both companies in November 2007, and both companies have sought protection from creditors.
In February 2008, a judge approved a deal whereby a numbered Ontario company owned by D'Angelo's family would purchase D'Angelo Brands.