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Judge has to determine which version is closest to the truth in St. John's sexual assault trial
A Mount Pearl woman says Benji Barnes broke into her home last fall and sexually assaulted her. Barnes insists she invited him over and they had consensual sex.
A St. John’s provincial court judge will rule later this month whose version of events is closer to the truth.
Judge Mike Madden will render the verdict in the case June 21.
During final arguments Friday morning, defence lawyer Stephen Orr contended the woman is lying.
“There were serious inconsistencies in her testimony, which calls into question her credibility,” he said.
Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten had a different take: “This is a case of jealousy which percolated to (Barnes) committing a number of offences.”
Barnes, 37, has pleaded not guilty to breaking into the woman’s Mount Pearl home and forcibly confining her, sexually assaulting her, choking her and threatening her and her two children on Oct. 26, 2018.
During the trial — which saw testimony wrap up in mid-May — the woman told the court that she had dozed off in bed watching Netflix with her two young children that night, when she was woken up by Barnes touching her leg. She said she yelled at him, before Barnes asked her kids to go to their own room and locked them out of the master bedroom.
The woman said Barnes grabbed her throat and took her to the bathroom, where he choked her and threatened to kill her children as she tried to scream and bang on the wall in an effort to alert her neighbours.
Benji Barnes, 37, has pleaded not guilty to breaking into the woman’s Mount Pearl home and forcibly confining her, sexually assaulting her, choking her and threatening her and her two children on Oct. 26, 2018.
The woman said Barnes then dragged her back to the bedroom, pinned her to the floor and sexually assaulted her.
She said she thought he was going to kill her.
She said Barnes then forced her to the basement, where he handed her the house phone and directed her to call his cellphone and leave him a voicemail asking him to come over for a “booty call.” He then told her to do a line of cocaine with him, she testified, before he eventually left, telling her he was going to get more cocaine and would be back.
She said she noticed a broken basement window and figured that’s how he had gotten in.
When he took the stand, Barnes said he had gone to the woman’s home that night because she had invited him there. The plan was that he would pay for sex, he said, as he had done with her in the past.
He said he spent a minute with the woman’s children and turned the TV on for them before joining the woman upstairs in bed.
Barnes said when he saw a hickey on her neck from someone else he made an obscene comment. He said she shoved him and he shoved her back before he went to the basement for a cigarette and then left. He said he wasn’t angry — he just couldn’t understand why she would have been with someone else who he considered to be “a loser with no income.” He denies threatening the woman and her children.
Orr told the judge the woman shouldn’t be believed, as there were too many inconsistencies in what she told police that night and what she testified to at trial.
For example, he said, she gave different answers about how long she and Barnes had been in a relationship and different details of how the alleged attack happened.
He also argued she lied about the drugs she had consumed, adding, “What else was she lying about?”
He said DNA evidence doesn’t support her claims, since the vaginal swab results were inconclusive and her injuries were not indicative of what she said happened.
Orr also suggested that her evidence may have been tainted by collusion because she relied on her children’s version of events.
“It makes her entire evidence unreliable …,” said Orr, who added that her timeline didn’t add up and that Barnes’ description is more consistent with the evidence.
“It would be dangerous for the court to rely on her testimony (to convict Barnes).”
Patten said Barnes was angry that night because the woman had turned down his repeated attempts to see her, insisting he stop harassing her.
“He is frustrated and was being disingenuous when he said he wasn’t,” said Patten, pointing to the Facebook messages Barnes sent her. “He wanted to see her. She was blowing him off and he couldn’t handle it … Mr. Barnes is furious. He’s frustrated. He’s jealous.”
He said the woman was fearful for her life and was genuine on the stand.
He said minor inconsistencies are understandable and she can’t be expected to remember every detail.
“That’s not unreasonable, considering the pandemonium that occurred,” Patten said.
He said it was a traumatic attack — much of which her children didn’t see.
“She was sexually assaulted,” Patten said. “These are not details she depended on her children to fill in.”
— With files from Tara Bradbury