WARNING: This story contains disturbing details
A Maple Ridge man accused of sexually assaulting a Langley woman has had his conviction overturned and a new trial ordered by a panel of three B.C. Court of Appeal judges.
The original judge in the trial of Christopher James Kruk made a legal error in his March 12 ruling, the judges found in a Jan. 20 ruling.
The alleged sexual assault took place on May 26, 2017, when Kruk was 34 years old.
The complainant in the case, a Langley woman who cannot be publicly identified, had been to a party and then a bar in Gastown with friends, but became intoxicated and got lost, and was crying on the sidewalk after 11:30 p.m. when Kruk encountered her.
According to testimony at the original trial in 2020, Kruk offered to get her home safely, and they took the SkyTrain to Coquitlam, then a cab to Kruk’s Maple Ridge home. On the way, he says he called the complainant’s mother on his cellphone to tell her he was getting her daughter home.
“He says he gave the complainant’s mother his full name and address and offered to give her his driver’s licence number,” Justice Leonard Marchand noted in the Court of Appeal ruling, however that claim would be challenged by other testimony at the first trial.
Kruk apparently tried to send the cab to the woman’s home with her in it, but the driver balked because she was so intoxicated.
Instead, the woman passed out or fell asleep at Kruk’s home. Meanwhile, her mother was frantically calling Kruk, more than 20 times over an almost two-hour period, but Kruk did not respond.
The victim testified at the first trial that she woke up to find Kruk having sex with her, and that she tried and failed to push him off. Kruk denied having sex with her.
The woman’s father and brother arrived at the home at 4 a.m., having tracked down Kruk’s home by calling multiple cab companies. When she heard her father’s voice, the woman rushed out the door wearing her sweatshirt and underwear. She told her brother she had been sexually assaulted, and filed a police complaint and had a medical examination later that day.
The judge in the first trial gave a number of reasons for his ruling, including his belief that it was “fanciful” to believe that the woman had somehow kicked off her own pants in the middle of the night, as well as contradictory statements Kruk gave at various times about why he never saw the frantic phone calls from the woman’s mother.
But the appeal court found that the core reason for the original guilty verdict was that the judge found it was “extremely unlikely” that a woman could be mistaken about the feeling of penile penetration.
However, there was no testimony or argument at trial that centered on that exact issue. The legal error in the judge’s ruling was relying on that idea, even though it was not “grounded in the evidence.”
Marchand did not think that the first trial overall was flawed.
“I agree with the Crown that there was a body of evidence on which the judge could convict,” he wrote.
However, that was not enough.
“He [the judge] did not grapple with the evidence and arguments of the parties on the central issue in the case,” Marchand wrote. “He did not make a finding that was tethered to the evidence. Instead, he engaged in speculative reasoning. He made an assumption on a matter that was not so well known as to be notorious, that was not capable of immediate and accurate proof by resort to a readily accessible source of indisputable accuracy, or that was a matter of common sense.”
The three judge panel unanimously ordered a new trial, and set aside Kruk’s conviction.
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