November 19, 2018

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Police charge city councillor Russ Wyatt with sexual assault

Coun. Russ Wyatt has been charged with sexual assault, accused of attacking a woman in a Winnipeg residence last January.

On Jan. 14, officers responded to a report of a "serious sexual assault," a term police use to refer to attacks consistent with rape.

Wyatt, 48, was interviewed soon after the alleged attack.

Wyatt's arrest Tuesday came hours after police received lab results connected to the investigation, Const. Rob Carver told reporters Wednesday, adding investigators did not handle the case differently because the suspect was an elected official.

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Coun. Russ Wyatt has been charged with sexual assault, accused of attacking a woman in a Winnipeg residence last January.

On Jan. 14, officers responded to a report of a "serious sexual assault," a term police use to refer to attacks consistent with rape.

Wyatt, 48, was interviewed soon after the alleged attack.

Wyatt's arrest Tuesday came hours after police received lab results connected to the investigation, Const. Rob Carver told reporters Wednesday, adding investigators did not handle the case differently because the suspect was an elected official.

"DNA analysis has to be sent out to the RCMP. The sending of the samples and the sending of the information is absolutely standard protocol in this type of investigation. We can't move forward until we get those results back," Carver said.

"I'm not indicating whether those results were instrumental in laying the charge. What I'm telling you is we can't move forward until those results are returned. They were returned yesterday and we felt that was the time to move forward with the arrest. There was no delay whatsoever."

Carver acknowledged that there were rumours about allegations against Wyatt in police and media circles as early as January.

"We need to be transparent and be seen to be transparent.... I had heard rumours. I know some people in the media had heard rumours," Carver said.

The victim was described as a woman known to Wyatt, but who wasn't his wife and isn't believed to be a City of Winnipeg employee. Carver added the attack did not occur at Wyatt's residence.

The news is the latest bombshell development in what's been a tumultuous year for the city hall veteran.

Coun. Russ Wyatt poses for a portrait on his first day back at City Hall in Winnipeg on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)</p>

Coun. Russ Wyatt poses for a portrait on his first day back at City Hall in Winnipeg on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Not long after the investigation into the alleged attack began, Wyatt disappeared from the public eye. He was not seen at city hall after Jan. 25, and it was later revealed he'd requested an extended leave of absence for what city officials described as a personal family matter. Even his council colleagues claimed to not know where he was.

In March, the Free Press revealed Wyatt was in rehab, seeking treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse at the Aurora Recovery Centre in Gimli.

At the time, in an exclusive letter to the Free Press, Wyatt said he’d been battling depression for a number of years, which led him down a path of "addiction to alcohol and a substance use disorder."

Wyatt, who has represented the Transcona ward since he was first elected to council in 2002, said his personal struggles spiralled to the point they began negatively affecting his family, leading him to realize he needed to seek help in order to take back control of his life.

"With a family and as a father, I knew I couldn’t go on and I had to make a change in my life. I want to live life to the fullest and to be the best father I can be," he wrote in the letter, which the Free Press published in it entirety, at his request.

"Because of that, at this time, I must focus on my recovery."

A noticeably thinner Wyatt returned to city hall in May and, speaking from the floor of council, said he had a new outlook on life. He said his time in rehab had changed him and he was excited to get back to work representing his ward.

In June, at Winnipeg Pride, Wyatt came out as bisexual, saying he’d been living a double life.

More recently, Wyatt announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in October. Soon after, however, he backpedalled and said he was undecided about his political future.

He's toyed with the idea of running for mayor on his Twitter account, but has been non-committal when asked directly if he plans to challenge Mayor Brian Bowman.

That account was deactivated as of Wednesday morning. Repeated attempts to contact Wyatt have not been successful.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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