(Black Press File Photo)

UPDATED: Former non-profit founder, found guilty of sexual assault files for mistrial

Founder of Fortress Foundation found guilty of 2017 sexual assault

Defence for a Saanich man, found guilty of breaking into a woman’s home and sexually assaulting her, filed an application for a mistrial at the last moment prior to a sentencing hearing scheduled for Friday morning.

Joel James Conway was convicted of sexual assault on March 26 by Supreme Court Justice Frtiz Verhoeven, who was ready to deliver his reasons and a sentence Friday, almost six months after the guilty verdict.

Crown counsel David Sissons told defence lawyer Timothy Russell that he opposed everything he was doing prior to the court proceeding — clearly blindsided by the last-minute application, stating he had only seen it for the first time an hour before the scheduled sentencing.

Russell is employed by the same firm — McCullough Watt Sutton — that spent the last five moths defending Andrew Berry, the Oak Bay father who was recently found guilty of murdering his two little girls on Christmas day in 2017.

READ ALSO: Saanich man convicted of sexual assault once behind non-profit fighting ‘sexually exploitative behaviour’

Russell told the courts he only became aware of this ‘significant fresh evidence’ late in September. The application is based on an affidavit filed by a woman acquainted with both Conway’s wife and the complaintant, who is identified by the initials A.B. as her name is protected by a publication ban.

Allegedly, Conway’s wife was visiting with the woman behind the affidavit when she learned her husband had been accused of rape. The affidavit describes how the woman then became curious and looked at the complainants facebook page, taking screen shots of several posts.

According to Russel, the woman was in his office late Thursday evening to file the affidavit.

Justice Verhoeven adjourned the court proceedings to allow both lawyers time to back up their arguments. During the adjournment, Conway was in a notably positive mood — laughing and hugging family members, along with congregates and the pastor of his church, who had come to support him.

According to public court documents, after attending a conference in Vancouver on March 3o, 2017, Conway told his wife he would be catching an early morning ferry but instead caught the 9 p.m. sailing, so he could spend the night out partying with a friend, referred to as Mr. S in the judgment.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay double murder trial: Five months of evidence, testimony summarized

After a night of drinking, he and the friend crossed paths with A.B. – who was already acquainted with Mr. S, and all three decided to share a taxi in the direction of A.B.’s home.

Once at A.B.’s home, they consumed vodka and cocaine before Conway and Mr.S. left in a taxi in the early hours of the morning.

Court documents detail how A.B. then double-checked her door was locked – also locking it with a chain door latch – before going up to her bedroom and falling asleep or “passing out.”

She said she awoke to find Conway naked in her room before he proceeded to rape her.

The judgment does not illustrate how Conway re-entered the home, as the door was latched, but Crown counsel suggested that he used the balcony to gain access.

Conway said that as he and Mr. S had left in the taxi, he had told his friend he wanted to return to A.B.’s home because he “thought he had a chance” with her. His friend discouraged him from doing so, but Conway said he had given her his phone number to which he alleges she texted him, “Hey, hurry back.”

Conway said that A.B. let him in through the front door and the encounter that followed was consensual – although the door, which has an automatic lock and recording system – did not make record of the door being opened from the inside.

In his judgment, Verhoeven rejected the notion that A.B. wanted Conway to return, saying she was “exhausted and intoxicated, and wanted to go to bed.”

Later, Verhoeven stated that “there is no evidence that A.B. invited him to return, or that she allowed him into her residence, or that tends to suggest that she consented to sexual activity.”

Conway had founded the now-dissolved Fortress Foundation, a Victoria-based non-profit organization that, in its mission statement, says it is “focused on eliminating gender-based violence and preventing sexually exploitative behaviour through education, empowerment and engagement of men to become equipped to end exploitation.”

A year before the assault, Conway told Black Press Media, he was a self-identified former porn-addict and that he decided to get help after he was unable to listen to a female motivational speaker at a conference.

“I realized there was something there that just wasn’t right and a lot of it was deeply-seated in my connection with porn and the ideology that women are less than,” he said at the time.

Justice Verhoeven asked members of the public to leave for an in-camera review to deliberate the next steps of the application.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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