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Handlarski's client acquitted of six counts of sexual offences

A youth has been acquitted of six sex charges and given an absolute discharge for other offences after Toronto criminal lawyer Ryan Handlarski argued that the evidence against him was tainted by high school rumours. 

Throughout the five-day trial in Burlington, Ont., Handlarski maintained the evidence of the four girls who alleged his client sexually assaulted them was influenced by gossip that he misbehaved with females. 

“When you put a person who's accused of sexual assault in the context of a high school, the version of events can be tainted by the rumours,” Handlarski tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“That was ultimately one of the main reasons why my client was acquitted of most of the counts.”

The youth, who can only be identified as T.J.A. under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was acquitted of three counts of sexual assault and three of sexual interference related to touching three girls.

But he was found guilty of three lesser but included charges of assault related to the three females and one count of sexual assault related to a fourth girl.

Justice David. A. Harris of the Ontario Court of Justice gave T.J.A. an absolute discharge, which means no convictions were registered and he was given no conditions to follow.

Handlarski, principal with RH Criminal Defence, says by the time T.J.A. was sentenced at age 17 it had been five years since he had committed the relatively minor sex assault, “which is practically a lifetime in the context of a young person.” The Youth Criminal Justice Act emphasizes timely intervention, he notes. 

“There was a very real problem with the evidence being tainted in this case,” the judge writes in his judgement. “T.J.A. was being actively portrayed as someone who was misbehaving by ‘groping’ female schoolmates. It is against that backdrop that each complainant assessed what had happened to her.”

Handlarski did not allege that the various incidents did not occur, the judge writes. “His argument was that they should not be characterized as assaults and certainly not be characterized as sexual assaults.”

The four complainants were 16 when they testified and by law cannot be identified.

Complainant B.B.C. alleged that when she was 15, T.J.A. attempted to touch her breasts while pretending to try to stop an iPod from falling from her pocket. But the judge found that the testimony of two other classmates contradicted hers and that “her judgment was tainted” by later events involving her and “the stories she had heard about T.J.A. ‘groping’ other female classmates.” Harris found him not guilty in this incident.

The judge also acquitted the youth of assault with respect to touching B.B.C.’s hand in a school hallway, finding he was just trying to get her attention.

Complainant, N.C., testified that when she was 14, he put his hand on her waist and upper outer thigh. Harris writes that her evidence leaves unclear which exact parts of her body T.J.A. touched but that he is satisfied the youth had intentionally made contact without her consent. The judge found him not guilty of sexual interference and sexual assault in this incident, but guilty of assault. 

A third complainant, M.K., testified that when she was 13, T.J.A. touched her on her breast while they were playing a tagging game called “manhunt” at an elementary school. Harris found him guilty of sexual assault in this incident. 

M.S., the fourth complainant, testified that when she was 14, T.J.A. touched her between her breasts outside her clothes and in the area of her vagina, again over her clothes, and she yelled at him to stop. “I have a number of concerns about her allegations,” Harris writes, noting that a friend contradicted her on several key points and she told police she didn’t remember the incident well.

“Finally, I am concerned about the possible tainting” of M.S.’s recollection of the events after she had heard the other stories about T.J.A.” Harris found him not guilty of sexual interference and not guilty of sexual assault with regard to M.S., but guilty of the lesser and included offence of assault.

 

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