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article imageAccused in 'knees together' trial acquitted again after retrial

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 1, 2017 in Crime
Calgary - Alexander Wagar was found not guilty of sexual assault for a second time after a retrial. He was previously acquitted by Judge Robin Camp whose demeaning comments led to a successful appeal and a committee recommending the judge's removal from the bench.
Wagar, 29, was a happy man. On his way out of a Calgary courtroom after a second judge found him not guilty of a 2011 sexual assault, he screamed “yeah” as loud as he could. Others involved in the case were not so happy.
Wagar’s was held last year and ended in November. Yesterday, Judge Jerry LeGrandeur rendered his verdict of not guilty. LeGrandeur was fully aware of the international interest in Wagar’s case and the judge took almost two hours to read the carefully crafted reasons for his decision.
Reasons for second acquittal
Wagar admitted having sex with the woman but said it was consensual, making the case essentially a “he said-she said” one. The judge said he found credibility issues with the complainant's evidence because she lived on the street and he did not accept her evidence she did not consume drugs or alcohol around the time of the alleged assault except for that night. The woman admitted on the stand she suffered from addictions. LeGrandeur also noted several memory lapses and inconsistencies in her evidence.
Although LeGrrandeur found Wagar’s evidence not to be reliable, the judge found his testimony to be more candid than the complainant’s. On the basis of the woman’s testimony, the judge said he was left with a reasonable doubt.
Camp made demeaning comments about complainant during first trial
During the original 2014 trial, Justice Camp kept referring to the complainant as “the accused.” He asked the woman why she could not have just kept her knees together or simply sunk down lower so she could not be penetrated. Camp also wondered why the woman did not fight harder against her attacker. The Judge’s comment about “knees” earned him the moniker of the “knees together judge.”
After the trial, complaints were made to the Canadian Judicial Council about Camp’s comments from the bench. The year following the trial, the Provincial Court Judge was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada where he currently sits.
The Canadian Judicial Council, that only has the power to make recommendations,took up that matter and after a hearing made a recommendation to the Minister of Justice that Camp be removed from the bench.
SEE ALSO: Inquiry finds 'knees together' judge should be removed from bench
Prosecutors may appeal second acquittal
The Crown is considering appealing the current acquittal based upon some of the comments made by LeGrandeur in his reasons. Prosecutor Janice Walsh said some of the comments made by LeGrandeur “give pause for future sexual assault cases.” The prosecutor also said she expects this decision to have a “cooling effect” regarding other complainants coming forward.
Wager’s lawyer, Pat Flynn, described his client as the true victim. Flynn said Wagar has suffered and has spent almost two years in custody before being acquitted for a second time. The lawyer praised LeGrandeur for his decision that showed people have the right to the presumption of innocence.
Prosecutors have 30 days from the date of the decision to launch another appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal. And it is not known whether the outcome of this trial will have an effect on Camp's removal from the bench.
More about alexander wagar, justice robin camp, knees together judge, Sexual assault, sexual assault complainants
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