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Student felt 'blindsided' after learning groundskeeper recorded sexual assault

HALIFAX — A young woman who was raped in her Halifax dorm room says she was "anxious to the point of getting sick" in the weeks afterwards, and felt compelled to seek justice after learning  the sexual assault had been videotaped.

Crown lawyer Rick Woodburn read the woman's victim impact statement Tuesday in Halifax provincial court at Matthew Percy's sentencing hearing.

Percy — a former groundskeeper at Saint Mary's University who still faces sex-assault charges in two separate incidents — was found guilty of sexual assault and voyeurism last December for the September 2017 incident.

The victim, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said in the statement that she suffered from depression and anxiety, and that she turned to alcohol in the weeks after she was sexually assaulted, all of which affected her school work at the university.

"I returned to my dorm room — the same one I was attacked in... The curtains remained closed so I didn't have to see that stupid little tractor mowing the football field," Woodburn said, reading the statement.

"I'm ashamed to say it now, but I almost didn't follow through with the charges. I was so exhausted. I was tired of the phone calls, and voicemails, and meetings, and expectations of how I should feel and how I should be reacting."

It's when an investigator informed her about video evidence of the sexual assault that led her to a change of heart.

"Never had I been so blindsided," the statement said.

"Imagine learning the person who assaulted you had filmed it for God knows what. Imagine learning that with your father sitting beside you. Anger I had never felt before led me to decide immediately in that same meeting that I was pressing charges."

The Crown is seeking four years in jail for Percy, while the defence is arguing for a sentence of between 12 and 18 months.

Judge Elizabeth Buckle asked Percy, who is in custody, if he had anything he wanted to say. He declined.

In his sentencing arguments, defence lawyer Brad Sarson said there was some activity that the victim had consented to that evening. He noted Percy, who is in his mid-30s, showed remorse for his actions in a pre-sentence report.

He also described him as a "model inmate."

"While staying at the correction centre up in New Glasgow, he's made as much a positive use of his time as he's been able to," Sarson told Buckle.

"He's attended and completed a number of programs that have been offered to him. He's been employed in the kitchen."

But Woodburn questioned Percy's remorse, noting he said in the pre-sentence report that he was "embarrassed" about the offences, that he wished he had not gone home with the victim and that he understands why he was found guilty.

"The Crown respectfully submits, that may be some kind of remorse, and that remorse might be tied up into how Mr. Percy feels about whatever happened to him," said Woodburn.

"That remorse ... doesn't reflect what he did to the victim and the affect he had on the victim."

Buckle reserved her decision until May 2.

Percy is also accused of sexually assaulting two other women, and will face separate trials next year on charges including sexual assault causing bodily harm, choking and assault.

In another incident involving a fourth woman in September 2017, Percy was accused of sexual assault, voyeurism and overcoming resistance by choking.

He was acquitted of those charges in August 2018, but the Crown has appealed that decision. The appeal is scheduled to be heard in October.

On the evening of Sept. 15, 2017, Percy and the victim ran into each other at a downtown Halifax bar, and consumed alcohol before going back to her SMU dorm room.

"Once there, they engaged in sexual activity, some of which was recorded by Mr. Percy on his phone,'' Buckle wrote in her decision convicting Percy Dec. 14.

"In the early morning, after Mr. Percy had fallen asleep, (the complainant) left the room and went to the security desk. She was distraught and had difficulty communicating, but reported that she had been sexually assaulted."

Buckle said the first video, which shows the complainant performing oral sex on Percy, was "highly indicative of consent."

"The video continues for three minutes and 16 seconds and she appears to be a willing participant throughout," she said.

"She is actively involved and seems to respond to him both verbally and through her actions."

But in a second video, Percy is having intercourse with the woman while she is unresponsive. Her eyes are closed, and she is not moving or making sounds.

"For approximately one-and-a-half minutes to two minutes she was unconscious while Mr. Percy had intercourse with her. The law is absolutely clear that an unconscious person cannot consent to sexual activity," the judge said.

"During that time, Mr. Percy knew she was unconscious. As such, he knew she was not consenting or lacked the capacity to consent and took no steps during that time to ensure she was consenting."

Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

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