Editor’s note: This story contains disturbing details of a sexual assault that some readers may find triggering.
A Duncan man convicted of aggravated sexual assault in a trial at the Duncan courthouse in 2018 has been acquitted on appeal.
Abraham Charles Percy Louie, who was found guilty of the charges related to an incident in a home in the Cowichan Valley on June 26, 2016, had his conviction and sentence of seven years in jail overturned by a panel of judges on Jan. 24.
The judges concluded that the verdict against Louie was unsupported by the evidence in the case.
The judges also decided at the appeal hearing that the conviction of Nicholas Des Charlie on the same charges for the same incident will stand.
“In my respectful opinion, the trial judge failed to give proper effect to the evidence,” wrote the Honourable Mr. Justice Peter Willcock, whose opinion was echoed by the other two members of the panel.
“Having measured the verdict against the totality of the evidence adduced against Louie at trial, in my opinion, the verdict is not one that a properly instructed jury or a judge could reasonably have rendered. The critical inference of intent on Louie’s part could not properly be drawn. Louie’s conviction on the count of sexual assault should be set aside.”
The assault took place in a residence on Whut’stun Road where a group of people were having a drinking party in one of the rooms.
The victim, known only as N.J. in court documents, was also at the party.
After consuming a significant amount of alcohol and passing out for a while, N.J. woke to find herself alone with Charlie and Louie, who are cousins, and tried to leave the room.
But Louie grabbed her arm to prevent her from leaving.
N.J. said in a statement that she then felt herself being penetrated and she blacked out again.
She said she was still in the room when she came to some time later and took a couple of steps into the hallway before collapsing.
Her sister, who was also at the party, found her there in the morning with no pants on and bleeding heavily.
She also had bruises all over her face, head, arms and legs.
Both Louie and Charlie were found sleeping in the room where the assault occurred.
“The [trial] judge’s inference that Louie grabbed the complainant’s arm so that she could be sexually assaulted could only be drawn if the assault was facilitated by Louie restraining her,” Willcock said in deciding to acquit Louie.
“Otherwise, other plausible inferences, consistent with innocence, could have been drawn. In my view there is no basis in the evidence to support the inference the sexual assault followed immediately on the heels of Louie’s restraint of the complainant.”
One of the main factors that led to the decision not to acquit Charlie was DNA evidence.
A DNA analysis was performed on what appeared to be a large bloodstain on the front of Charlie’s shorts and underwear after the incident, and it produced a profile matching the complainant’s.
“[The] only rational conclusion is that Mr. Charlie was, at the very least, a party to the sexual assault of N.J.,” Willcock said.
“The verdict against Louie was unreasonable because there was no evidence to sufficiently connect his restraint of the complainant to the subsequent sexual assault. With respect to Charlie, it was open to the [trial] judge to conclude he was a party to the assault based on the presence of the blood and semen on his shorts, and it is discernable from the reasons for judgment that this was the basis for his conviction.”