A former groundskeeper at Saint Mary’s University has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail for sexually assaulting a woman in her dorm room in September 2017.
Matthew Percy was convicted of sexual assault and voyeurism in Halifax Provincial Court, where he heard his fate on Thursday afternoon.
Percy is also accused of sexually assaulting two other women and will face separate trials in 2020 on other charges, including sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking and assault.
In another incident involving a fourth woman in September 2017, Percy was accused of sexual assault, voyeurism and overcoming resistance by choking.
He was acquitted of those charges in August 2018, but the Crown has appealed that decision. The appeal will be heard on Oct. 9, 2019.
In the case at hand in Thursday’s sentencing, Percy and the woman ran into each other at a downtown Halifax bar on Sept. 15, 2017 and drank alcohol before going back to her SMU dorm room. Percy then recorded portions of their sexual activity with a cellphone.
The first video shows the complainant performing oral sex on Percy. In her decision convicting Percy on Dec. 14, 2018, Judge Elizabeth Buckle said that tape was “highly indicative of consent” as the woman responded to him “both verbally and through her actions.”
But a second video shows the ex-groundskeeper having intercourse with the woman while she’s unresponsive. Her eyes are closed, and she doesn’t move or make any sounds.
“For approximately one and a half minutes to two minutes, she was unconscious while Mr. Percy had intercourse with her. The law is absolutely clear that an unconscious person cannot consent to sexual activity,” the judge said.
“During that time, Mr. Percy knew she was unconscious. As such, he knew she was not consenting or lacked the capacity to consent and took no steps during that time to ensure she was consenting.”
Earlier this year, the complainant testified through a victim impact statement read by the Crown that she was “anxious to the point of getting sick” in the weeks after the assault. She wrote that she suffered from depression and anxiety and that she turned to alcohol to cope, all of which affected her school work.
The woman’s identity is protected by a publication ban.
“I returned to my dorm room, the same one I was attacked in … The curtains remained closed so I didn’t have to see that stupid little tractor mowing the football field,” said Crown attorney Rick Woodburn, who read her statement in court on March 26.
When an investigator first informed the woman about video evidence of the sexual assault, she wrote: “Never had I been so blindsided.
“Imagine learning the person who assaulted you had filmed it for God knows what. Imagine learning that with your father sitting beside you. Anger I had never felt before led me to decide immediately in that same meeting that I was pressing charges.”
The Crown sought four years in jail for Percy, while the defence argued for a sentence between 12 and 18 months. In his sentencing arguments, defence lawyer Brad Sarson said the victim had consented to some of the activity that evening.
He also noted Percy’s remorse for his actions in a pre-sentence report and described him as a “model inmate” at the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, where he has worked in the kitchen.
But the Crown questioned Percy’s remorse, adding that Percy said in the pre-sentence report that he was “embarrassed” about the offences, that he wished he had not gone home with the victim and that he understands why he was found guilty.
“The Crown respectfully submits that may be some kind of remorse, and that remorse might be tied up into how Mr. Percy feels about whatever happened to him,” said Woodburn. “That remorse … doesn’t reflect what he did to the victim and the effect he had on the victim.”
—With files from the Canadian Press
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