Nova Scotia judge acquits man in 2017 university sexual assault case

A former St. Francis Xavier University student has been acquitted on a sexual assault charge by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge.

Luke Letourneau had pleaded not guilty to the charge in connection with an alleged incident in a residence at the Antigonish, N.S., school in November 2017.

In her decision today, Justice Denise Boudreau said that with no direct evidence regarding consent by the complainant — whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban — she was left with reasonable doubt that a sexual assault had occurred.

Boudreau says the complainant’s unexplained memory gap during the short sexual encounter was a key point in her decision, because the woman was not intoxicated and didn’t have a medical condition that may have contributed to the memory loss.

She says she found Letourneau’s recollection of the events consistent and credible, and she noted that he ultimately stopped and apologized when the complainant made it clear that she was uncomfortable with what was happening.

Boudreau says that until the point when the complainant clearly withdrew her consent and the activity stopped, Letourneau would have been justified in his belief that she was “consenting and that she had communicated that to him.”

The case garnered widespread attention after it was revealed that St. F.X. permitted Letourneau to remain on campus pending the criminal prosecution.

However, Letourneau later withdrew from the school, and the university’s president apologized for how the case was handled.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.

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