Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Clumsy Don Juan' convicted a second time

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The Thompson man a trial judge once described as a "clumsy Don Juan" was convicted Wednesday -- for a second time -- of a 2006 sexual assault on a young woman.

Justice Lori Spivak, of the Court of Queens Bench, said Kenneth Rhodes, now 43, was not a credible witness at his second trial held this past spring, adding she believed Rhodes had "tailored his evidence to suit his purposes. He was defensive and evasive. His testimony lacked consistency...

"His account of what occurred changed as questions were asked," Spivak stated in a written decision released Wednesday afternoon.

Rhodes will be sentenced at a later date following the completion of a pre-sentence report.

Crown prosecutor Sheila Seesahai said outside court she will ask that Spivak impose a sentence of two years or more.

Rhodes had pleaded not guilty to the charge, claiming the sex with the then-20-year-old woman was consensual or he thought it was consensual.

It was the same defence Justice Robert Dewar had rejected at Rhodes' first trial, but Dewar's comments at a sentencing hearing in February 2011 prompted national outrage.

Dewar suggested the victim's clothing and flirtatious behaviour were partly to blame for the attack, which involved forced anal, vaginal and digital intercourse in a wooded area outside Thompson. Dewar called Rhodes, a "clumsy Don Juan" who may have misunderstood what the victim wanted.

"This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour," Dewar said in his sentencing ruling.

Dewar said he didn't want to be seen as blaming the victim, but all factors in the case must be considered to assess "moral blameworthiness."

"I'm sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional," he said.

Both Rhodes and the Crown filed appeals. The Crown wanted the conditional sentence replaced with a three-year prison term. Rhodes wanted the conviction set aside.

The Appeal Court ordered a new trial, which was held in Thompson at the end of April and May.

Dewar's comments led to protests locally and across the country and complaints were filed against Dewar with the Canadian Judicial Council, including a complaint from the provincial government.

Before the Appeal Court released its ruling on a new trial, the CJC stopped short of disciplining Dewar but said his remarks showed a clear lack of sensitivity toward victims of sexual assault and fell short of the high standard Canadians expect of all judges.

In the release from the CJC, Dewar apologized for his comments and said he wished to "express my unequivocal apology to (the victim) for the hurt she must have experienced from my comments."

Dewar also met with an expert on gender equality and was pursuing further professional development in that area.

Wednesday's hearing was conducted via a video conference, with Rhodes and his defence counsel in Thompson while Spivak and Seesahai were in a courtroom in Winnipeg.

Spivak said she had no doubt Rhodes was guilty, adding the victim was consistent in her testimony and unshaken as to what happened.

"The (victim) was compelling in her account of the sexual assault," Spivak stated. "Her evidence was detailed and precise. Her testimony did not seem contrived and she testified in a genuine manner. She provided specifics about how she was" attacked.

"I was struck by the way she described her feeling of fear at the time, recounting the terror she felt... "

Rhodes had been free on bail following the Appeal Court ruling. However, Seesahai filed a motion to have him held in custody on the grounds he had recently breached his bail -- he was found drunk -- and served three days in jail. Seesahai said bail should also be revoked because Spivak found him guilty.

Another hearing is expected soon to deal with the bail revocation.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2013 A7


Updated on Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 8:11 AM CDT: adds photo

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