A Whitehorse man said he’s looking forward to moving on with his life after a jury acquitted him of sexual assault April 27.
Dion Roberts, 30, burst into tears in the courtroom when, following about five hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury came back around 9:15 p.m. to deliver a verdict of not-guilty.
Roberts was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home following a night out at the Casa Loma Motel in February 2016. During the four-day trial, which began April 24, the woman testified that she had invited Roberts back to her house to socialize with her roommate, and that she had gone to bed alone. However, the woman claimed, she was awoken by Roberts in her bed touching her and testified that he then sexually assaulted her.
Roberts, however, testified that the woman had invited him into her room and initiated sexual activity, and that the sex was consensual.
The court also heard from a police officer who took the woman’s complaint and arrested Roberts as well as from one of the woman’s roommate’s over the course of the trial.
The jury heard closing submissions from the defence and Crown the afternoon of April 27 before retiring and going in to deliberations just before 3 p.m.
Lawyer Benjamin Bruce Warnsby, who represented Roberts along with co-counsel Mark Reynolds, argued that his client has testified, even though he was under no obligation to, because he had nothing to hide. Roberts admitted to lying in his police statement and other unflattering details, Warnsby said, which spoke to his honesty on the stand. Warnsby acknowledged that the woman may have had a “bad, upsetting, perhaps even traumatizing experience, but that alone does not make a crime.”
However, Crown attorney Amy Porteous, who worked with co-Crown counsel Paul Battin on the case, called Roberts’ version of events “bizarre” and a “fantasy.”
“Just because someone doesn’t feel guilty doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty,” she said, reminding jurors that the trial was not about whether they approve of the woman’s lifestyle, drinking habits or how she reacted during and after that night.
“No matter what he may say, it wasn’t Dion Roberts’ dignity that was violated that night,” she said.
The jury deliberated for about five hours, not including a dinner break, before returning with a verdict of not guilty.
Roberts, who was sitting at the defence table with his lawyers, broke out into audible sobs, as did two of his family members who were sitting in the gallery. He continued to shake, wiping away tears, as the court clerk asked each juror to confirm that they agreed with the verdict.
Neither the woman nor members of her family were present in court for the verdict.
In a brief interview outside the courtroom, both of Roberts’ lawyers said there were “no winners” in the case.
“Our client’s financially devastated, his career has been ruined by this, and the complainant described herself (as) having serious emotional difficulties as a result. Nobody’s better off,” Reynolds said.
A still-tearful Roberts said he just wanted to go home.
“I want to go back home and set the date for (my) marriage and I just want to move on with my life right now,” he said. “… This is still going to affect me for years to come. I just want peace of mind.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org