The courtroom erupted with cries on both sides Friday evening as the jury foreman announced the verdict.
The jury rendered its decision just before 7 p.m at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s after a day and a half of deliberations
The six men and five women — who were sequestered Thursday afternoon after being instructed on the law by Justice Valerie Marshall — deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours Thursday and a full day Friday.
The complainant was upset and crying, and quickly left the courtroom through the side door.
Meanwhile, Snelgrove cried tears of joy as he hugged his wife and family, who were also crying.
His lawyer, Randy Piercey, told reporters that Snelgrove hugged him and thanked him when he left the courtroom.
The verdict took longer than most involved in the trial expected.
At 4 p.m. Thursday, jurors returned to the courtroom to ask the judge a few questions.
The first one was regarding the procedure they have to follow when filling out the verdict sheets. They wondered if they could complete them if not everyone agreed on a verdict. Marshall told them there must be one verdict.
The second question they asked was whether they could listen to the testimonies of both Snelgrove and the complainant again. The judge agreed. That took almost four hours, with a short break in between.
Jurors also had to review other evidence from the week-and-a-half-long trial to determine if the 39-year-old Snelgrove was guilty or not guilty of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman while he was on duty on Dec. 21, 2014.
The woman testified that after a night of partying at a downtown bar, she was extremely drunk when she approached Snelgrove’s police car, which was parked on Water Street, and got a ride home.
She remembered some conversation on the way home and that she gave him directions.
She said that when they arrived, she and Snelgrove walked to the house, but she couldn’t find her keys and, with his help, she climbed in through a window and then let him in the door.
She said she couldn’t remember much of what happened because she was so drunk and it was so long ago, but the next thing she knew, he was having anal sex with her.
She said she remembers hearing him speak to her and seeing him walk to the bathroom to clean up.
She said Snelgrove didn’t use force on her.
She told the court that she had no intention of having sex with Snelgrove and that she just wanted to go home to sleep. She said she felt it would be safer to go with a police officer than in a taxi.
However, Snelgrove testified that she appeared fine when she approached the car and he didn’t see any signs of intoxication.
He said they talked all the way en route to her place in the east end of the city. The conversation included such topics as the police officers she knew, her friends, his job, her job and her aspirations to go back to school.
She also told him that she thought he was very attractive, he said. He said he returned the compliment and said she was cute or pretty.
He said she gave directions to where she lived.
When the woman said she couldn’t find her keys, Snelgrove offered to drive her to a friend’s house.
He said she had no problem getting in the window and then opened the door and invited him in.
He said he’s not sure why he went inside her place, but when he did, she made sexual advances and he responded.
He said the sex was consensual.
The judge told jurors that in order to find Snelgrove guilty, the Crown must prove all four essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that Snelgrove intentionally applied force, 2) the force was sexual in nature, 3) the woman did not consent, and 4) Snelgrove did not honestly believe the woman did not give consent.
Consent was at the heart of the case.
In a statement emailed to media soon after the verdict was announced, RNC chief William Janes said he would not comment on the jury’s decision, because the Crown has 30 days to file an appeal.
“Following any potential appeal, the matter will be addressed through the Public Complaints Commission process,” Janes stated. “The appropriate discipline under the RNC Act will be determined through that process.”
Janes added that Snelgrove has been suspended without pay since charges were laid against him in 2015, and that suspension will continue until “the appropriate discipline has been determined.”
“I want to assure the public that we do not tolerate inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour by our officers and take complaints from the public very seriously,” Janes stated.