A Watson Lake man has been acquitted of sexual assault over concerns about the reliability of evidence in the case.
Alfred Thomas Chief Jr., 31, was found not guilty of one count of sexual assault on Friday morning.
Judge Peter Chisholm found that the testimony of the female complainant in the case did not meet the standard of proof required to convict Chief beyond a reasonable doubt.
This standard is high in criminal cases, Chisholm noted.
“I do not have any reason to believe (she) was misleading the court,” he added.
The identity of the complainant in the case is protected under a statutory publication ban.
Chief was accused of sexually assaulting the woman on the evening of May 2, 2016 at her home in Watson Lake.
According to her testimony, the two were partying together on May 1 and 2.
On the latter evening, she fell asleep at her home after consuming alcohol and awoke to find Chief sexually assaulting her.
She used her legs to push him off and recalled that Chief was intoxicated. She said no one else was in the home at the time.
In a voluntary statement to police, Chief admitted partying with the woman and said he was intoxicated by alcohol and a hard drug to the extent that he blacked out.
He could not recall what had taken place that night because of his intoxication, but denied sexually assaulting the woman or going to her home.
He claimed to the officer that he could not have committed the assault because of the drug he had taken, suggesting it would have impaired his motor skills.
In her statement to the police on May 3, the woman said following the assault, she went to a local laundromat, where she told two people what had happened.
She then went to the hospital, where a sexual assault kit was administered. The kit did not recover DNA.
The woman was then taken from the hospital back to her home.
There, a police officer took photos where the alleged assault had taken place and noticed two hickeys on either side of the woman’s neck.
She told him the marks had not been there prior to the assault.
Both witnesses gave statements to police that they saw Chief and the woman together at the laundromat on the evening of May 2.
The pair were intoxicated, they said, but their interaction seemed normal, and there did not appear to be tension between them.
They did not testify that the woman had made allegations to them that she had been sexually assaulted by Chief.
During court testimony, the woman could not remember whether she had gone to the laundromat that evening.
She noted that her memory leading up to and after the alleged assault was somewhat blurry because of her drinking. She also had no recollection of what she said in her statement to police.
“I don’t really remember anything about this time,” she said.
Defence lawyer Lynn MacDiarmid argued that the only evidence that a sexual assault had taken place was the testimony of the woman.
She questioned the credibility of the testimony given the woman’s difficulty remembering and inconsistencies between her statement to the police and court testimony.
The defence did not present any evidence in the case.
Crown counsel Paul Battin argued that while the woman’s memory of events in the days prior to the alleged assault was admittedly blurry, she had a clear detailed memory of the sexual assault.
The inconsistencies were minimal, he said, corroborating that evidence such as DNA from a sexual assault kit is not required for a conviction.
But Judge Chisholm found that because of the inconsistencies in the woman’s testimony and her difficulty remembering, the Crown’s evidence did not meet the required standard of proof.
He noted the negative effect alcohol consumption can have on the reliability of evidence.
However, he said it was clear from the witnesses’ testimony that the woman was at the laundromat with Chief that evening.
Chief is currently incarcerated on remand for an unrelated charge.
He stands accused of the murder of Olsen Wolftail, 87, at a Watson Lake residence in December 2016.
Chief has yet to enter a plea to the charge.
If convicted, he could face life imprisonment without eligibility of parole for 25 years.