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Defence wraps case in sexual assault trial of Paradise's John Roberts

John Roberts stands in the dock behind his lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, as the second day of his trial gets underway in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday. Roberts has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally harassing a woman and sexually assaulting her with a beer bottle.
John Roberts stands in the dock behind his lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday. Roberts has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally harassing a woman and sexually assaulting her with a beer bottle. - Tara Bradbury

Four witnesses called to the stand; closing arguments being presented today

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Warning: Details in this story may be upsetting to some readers.

The soft-spoken woman had to be coaxed to say the f-word louder in provincial court Thursday.

“It’s OK, if she said it, you’re allowed to say it in court,” defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan told the woman, who was testifying about a heated exchange she said she had witnessed between her co-worker, John Roberts, and a woman.

“OK. She said... f--k you,” the woman said, dipping her voice.

“I know it’s uncomfortable, but you’ve got to say it louder so we can hear,” Sullivan said.

“She said f--k you,” the woman said, loudly, before blessing herself with the sign of the cross multiple times.

Roberts, 51, has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally harassing a woman over a period of a month last year, as well as sexually assaulting her with a weapon — a beer bottle — in the summer of 2017.

John Roberts. - Twitter photo
John Roberts. - Twitter photo

Roberts’ co-worker was one of four witnesses called to testify by the defence once the Crown closed its case Thursday morning. She said she and Roberts had been working at a drycleaners one day last year when the complainant came to drop off some clothing. She said she had looked out the window and seen the complainant coming into the business, and told Roberts.

“I looked at John Roberts and John Roberts turned white. He said, ‘You’re joking me, right?’ I said no and with that he started to leave the room,” the woman testified. He ended up face to face with the complainant, she said.

“As soon as she came in the room she kind of snarled or sneered. It was nasty,” the woman told the court. He was calm and he did turn around and say to her, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be here.’”

That’s when the complainant cursed, the witness said, and told Roberts he couldn’t tell her what to do.

“Did she appear to you to be nervous or frightened?” Sullivan asked.

“Noooo,” the woman replied emphatically.

The complainant testified earlier this week, telling the court she had first gone to the RNC in January of 2018, after she had woken up to find her vehicle 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.

“Why did you think (Roberts) was responsible?” prosecutor Nicole Hurley had asked her.

“Because he had tried calling me 20 or 25 times a couple nights before,” the woman replied. She had answered once, she said, and Roberts told her he had gotten his leg stuck in a bannister and he needed her help. She told him to call someone else. When she called him the next day to see how he had fared and told him there was no need to call her back later, Roberts grew angry, the woman testified.

The woman told the court of Roberts getting angry because she had plans with her family for a holiday dinner, and of child protection authorities calling her the next 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, though she acknowledged under cross-examination that she had given her travel agent permission to discuss her flight details with Roberts for the purpose of booking a coordinating vacation. The woman said she and Roberts were sometimes on good terms, but those periods were short-lived and ended for good after the vandalism.

The woman said Roberts called her persistently from a blocked caller ID, and kept calling her until about the end of March. She said she believed the calls were Roberts since he was on the other end of the line on the few times when she had answered the call and he had always used a blocked number previously, and a police investigation had confirmed the calls had come from one of Roberts’ phones.

One night in February, the woman contacted police after she said Roberts had arrived in his vehicle outside her home, and had been calling her over and over.

“He had told me before that if you have money you can get anybody to do anything. At first ... I just thought that he was trying to be powerful, but he’d always say that he could completely destroy me, that he had enough money to do whatever he wants,” she said, her voice cracking. “He said that he could get anybody to do whatever he wanted as long as he paid them. I didn’t want to be around anybody because I didn’t know what he was capable of.”

The woman said the night Roberts had sexually assaulted her, they had been having consensual sex which ended when he picked up a beer bottle. She cried as she described telling him twice to stop and physically trying to block him as he assaulted her.

Through the four witnesses she called to testify on Thursday, Sullivan attempted to poke holes in the woman’s evidence and prove the woman had not been afraid of Roberts.

Roberts’ next-door neighbour testified he had called police to make a complaint about unknown vehicles parking in his driveway, which he shared with Roberts, late at night. His description of one of the vehicles and of the female driver matched that of the complainant.

Sullivan presented the man with photos of the vehicles, which he confirmed his partner had taken from their home one night. However, on cross-examination, Hurley pointed out the photos bore a logo of a home surveillance system on them.

“How did you come to be in possession of these photos?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have a lawyer,” the man replied. “They might be from John’s security camera.”

Judge Jacqueline Brazil later said she would not be considering the photos as part of the evidence at trial.

An RNC officer also testified, telling the court she had been contacted by Roberts about the vehicles in his driveway. She ran the plate number he had provided and learned the vehicle belonged to the complainant, so she called the woman and advised her to stay away from Roberts’ home, she said.

The last witness to take the stand was a man who said he had installed Roberts’ home surveillance system and had done “camera work” for him for years. Roberts had contacted him one night and asked him to come to the home and review some camera footage, he said.

On the night the woman alleged Roberts had shown up in his vehicle outside her house, his security cameras had captured him at home the whole night, the man testified.

“He was in his exterior garage with his legs up on the bar, watching TV,” the man said. “His vehicle was in the driveway and did not move the whole time.”

The defence rested its case Thursday afternoon. Hurley and Sullivan will present their closing arguments to the judge today.

Twitter: @tara_ bradbury


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