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St. John's jury convicts man of sexually assaulting children

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Warning: Graphic content in this story might disturb some readers.

A St. John's jury has convicted a man in his 60s of sexually assaulting two children nearly a decade ago.

The man — whose identity is protected by a publication ban in order to protect the identity of the two victims — went to trial before a jury at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's last week.

After hearing closing submissions from defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan and prosecutor Richard Deveau Thursday afternoon, the 12 jurors were given their instructions by Justice David Hurley before they were sequestered to deliberate on the verdict. They returned Saturday with guilty verdicts on four counts of sexual assault.

The two female complainants, now teenagers, both testified during the man's trial, telling the court the man had sexually assaulted them with his hands and feet in a rec room and a bedroom years ago. The court heard the man had played a game with the children where he had pretended to be a cat, asking them to stay quiet. One of the girls testified the man had performed cunnilingus on her in a bedroom while other adults were in the home and unaware of what was happening. In one incident, the man sexually assaulted one of the girls as she watched TV.

The man also testified, categorically denying the allegations.

In her closing remarks, Sullivan focused on the uniqueness of the girls' evidence, pointing out they had each provided different information and were unable to say what year the man had assaulted them. Each of them was unable to recall the details the other had provided.

"You cannot convict a man based on the evidence of two witnesses who do not tell the same story." — defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan

"You've often heard the expression, 'The devil's in the details,' and that's what I'm asking you to consider today," Sullivan said, arguing the complainants had contradicted themselves and each other, and were unable to recall certain details when questioned, including whether the accused had worn suspenders or a belt, or on which side of the bed his sleep apnea machine had been located. The description one of the girls had provided for the man's location and position in the room at the time of one of the incidents made it physically impossible, Sullivan argued.

"Sympathy clouds reasonable doubt," she told the jurors. "You cannot convict a man based on the evidence of two witnesses who do not tell the same story."

In his closing submissions, Deveau argued the girls' evidence hadn't matched because they had been talking about different assaults, not the same one.

"When you rely on common sense, you will find (the man) guilty on all four counts," Deveau told the jurors. "These are very young people trying to recollect things that happened a long time ago. They are testifying to things they didn't understand at the time. I think if there were no inconsistencies, we'd think there was something wrong."

Deveau said the man's testimony had seemed self-serving, and he had contradicted himself in some parts while corroborating the complainants' evidence about locations and time periods in others.

"All I'm asking you today is to not acquit (the man) because (one of the girls) couldn't remember if he was wearing suspenders or a belt," Deveau said. "Do not acquit him because (the other girl) couldn't remember what side of the bed a sleep apnea machine was on."

The man is scheduled to return to court in the new year for sentencing.

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