Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Rapist files appeal over Dewar verdict

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A man involved in a controversial Manitoba rape case claims he's been wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Kenneth Rhodes filed an appeal this week, seeking to have his sexual assault verdict overturned by the province's highest court. He claims the guilty finding by Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar "was unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence."

The move comes only days after provincial justice officials filed their own appeal of Dewar's decision to keep Rhodes out of jail. They specifically cited his commentary on the actions and attire of the female victim as the reason for his lenient sentence.

The Crown is seeking to have the conditional sentence handed out by Dewar dismissed by the Court of Appeal and replaced by a more substantive penalty of three years behind bars.

Rhodes pleaded not guilty at the trial on the basis he thought the woman had consented. Dewar rejected his defence, but said aspects of it could be considered in sentencing.

At a sentencing hearing Feb. 18, in Thompson, Dewar suggested a victim's attire and flirtatious behaviour were partly to blame for the attack, which involved forced intercourse. The judge called the attacker, Kenneth Rhodes, a "clumsy Don Juan" and noted the victim wore a tube top, high heels and plenty of makeup.

Rhodes was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community. Rhodes and a friend met the woman and her girlfriend earlier that night outside a bar under what the judge called "inviting circumstances." The women spoke of going swimming in a nearby lake that night "notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit."

The foursome left the parking lot in a vehicle and headed into the woods, court was told. Rhodes began making sexual advances toward the victim, who initially rejected him but later returned his kisses. Rhodes then forced himself upon the woman once they were alone.

The judge's remarks unleashed a firestorm of protest when they came to light in a Free Press story. Politicians of all stripes joined student and feminist groups and those who work with sexual assault victims in decrying the comments. Many said they feared Dewar's remarks would deter other victims from coming forward in the future.

The Canadian Judicial Council, which has authority over more than 1,100 federally appointed judges, has received "several" complaints about Dewar's handling of the case and has launched an investigation. In the meantime, Dewar has agreed not to preside over any cases "of a sexual nature", according to Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

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