Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Want to become a member? Check out the benefits here.
SaltWire Selects: Weekend picks
Get the latest summer forecast and weather knowledge from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
‘You are completely wrong, because it happened to me,’ woman tells John Roberts’ lawyer
Warning: Details in this story may be upsetting to some readers.
Her voice sometimes wavered and she sometimes paused to find her words, but the woman John Roberts is alleged to have sexually assaulted with a beer bottle was clear and adamant when his lawyer accused her of lying Tuesday.
“You are completely wrong, because it happened to me,” she said, after Rosellen Sullivan said there was no way Roberts could have inserted a bottle in her vagina against her will.
Roberts, 51 and an unsuccessful mayoral candidate for the town of Paradise two years ago, is charged with sexually assaulting the woman with a weapon in the summer of 2017 as well as criminally harassing her over a period of about a month early last year. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his trial, which is scheduled to last four days, began on Monday with the complainant testifying as the first witness.
Giving her evidence from a room down the hall at provincial court in St. John’s, the woman said she had first gone to the RNC in January of 2018, after she woke up one morning to find her car had been spray-painted with the words “Two-dollar whore.” Her place of work and her mother’s vehicle had also been spray-painted, and a gas can had been left on her doorstep, she said.
She said she believed Roberts was responsible because he had tried calling her 25 times a couple of nights before from a blocked number. She had answered only one of the calls, she said, and it was Roberts, telling her he had gotten his leg stuck in a stair bannister and needed her help. She said she had told him to call someone else. When she called him the next day to see how he had fared, they got into an argument.
The woman told the court of Roberts getting angry because she had plans with her family for dinner one holiday, and of child protection authorities calling her the following day, saying they had received a complaint from a man alleging she had left her child home alone. After she bought a trip down south, Roberts surprised her a few days before she left when he told her he had bought himself the same trip, she said. She explained there were times when she and Roberts were on good terms, but those periods were short-lived and she never spoke to him again after February 2018.
The court heard a recording of a phone call between Roberts and the woman in which his voice is slurred as he tells her he has taken pills and wants to say goodbye, and that he is not guilty of the things she believes he is.
The woman testified that the night Roberts had sexually assaulted her, they had been having consensual sex which ended when he picked up a beer bottle. She grew upset as she described telling him twice to stop and physically trying to block him as he assaulted her.
“But did you cry from the pain?” Sullivan asked the woman, who said she had not. “And there were no injuries? You weren’t bleeding? You didn’t go to the hospital?”
The woman said no to each question.
“You didn’t go to the police for 10 months, can you tell me why that is?” Sullivan asked.
“Because I was afraid, because I was nervous, because it’s a weird topic to talk about,” the complainant replied.
Sullivan questioned the woman on her testimony related to the alleged criminal harassment, pointing out the woman had given her travel agent permission to speak to Roberts about her flight details specifically so he could book a co-ordinating trip down south, and that she had told police it was possible that someone else could have been responsible for the vandalism. The woman had no way of knowing for sure that the multiple unanswered calls from a blocked caller ID had come from Roberts, Sullivan said, and pointed out the woman had filed for a peace bond against Roberts but had later withdrawn the application. She had not mentioned the sexual assault in the application, the defence lawyer said, nor had she mentioned it when she provided Roberts’ then-lawyer with a list of three dozen alleged incidents that formed the basis of the application, or to police when she reported the alleged harassment.
“I wasn’t ready to talk about it,” the woman explained.
Sullivan suggested the woman had filed the peace bond not because she was scared of Roberts but because she was angry at him, believing he had been the one to call child protection authorities.
The woman testified on Monday that Roberts had been repeatedly driving past her house; Sullivan asked her on Tuesday if she had been doing the same to him since he was charged a year ago. She said no, but later acknowledged an RNC officer had contacted her and told her to stay away from Roberts’ home.
“So when (the officer) called you and told you not to do it, she didn’t have any specific evidence of you doing it, is that what you’re saying?,” Sullivan asked.
“She gave me the make and model of my (vehicle) and told me people saw me around his house, and she said that he told her that I parked in his driveway in the nighttime. I did not do that, no,” the woman replied.
“I’m going to suggest you did do that and you did it because you are not afraid of him, you were never afraid of him, because what you’re saying happened here today is untrue,” Sullivan said.
“You are wrong. So wrong,” the woman replied.
RNC Const. Debra Andrews has been the only other witness to testify so far at Roberts’ trial, and her time on the stand Tuesday was brief. Andrews told the court she had taken the woman’s tearful statement about the alleged sexual assault after the woman had asked to speak to a female officer.
“In your experience, are sexual assaults often reported immediately after they happen?,” asked prosecutor Nicole Hurley.
“Quite often they are not reported immediately, no,” Andrews replied.
Roberts’ trial continues today.