Edmonton bar lawyer expected to serve five to nine years in prison for sexual assault, says defense lawyer

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Matthew McKnight comes off the court during a hiatus in Edmonton on July 8, 2020.

JASON FRANSON / The Canadian Press

An Edmonton defense lawyer said former bar promoter Matthew McKnight should be sentenced to five to nine years in prison for five sexual assaults against young women in city bars between 2010 and 2016.

The prosecution is asking for 22.5 years, which defense lawyer Dino Bottos rejected on Friday as being excessively high, and which he said showed that prosecutors had “lost their perspective” on the case, trying to ‘appease the public and “quench their thirst for blood”.

Mr McKnight, now 33, was tried last October on 13 counts of sexual assault involving 13 women, and was convicted by a jury in January on five of the charges, and found not guilty on the remaining eight . The hearing lasted four days and will continue on July 23, with Judge Doreen Sulyma convicting Mr. McKnight at some point thereafter.

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Mr McKnight is expected to appear in court again ahead of his conviction.

The gap between the two proposed sentences – which Mr Bottos acknowledged to be the largest in any case in which he has been involved – reflects the very different views on both sides on the case and on Mr McKnight in as a delinquent.

In the Crown’s view, Mr. McKnight is a serial sexual predator who has ravaged young women with alcohol and, in some cases, a “date drug” to neutralize and then rape them.

In the defense, Mr McKnight was just promiscuous who consumed alcohol in the course of his work and had sex with many women, some of whom later made allegations against him. Mr. Bottos described the five sexual assaults as “not a pattern, but a set of five random encounters” in which Mr. McKnight “just went too far.”

The trial, which lasted 63 days and included 37 witnesses, was largely made up of the women’s testimony against that of Mr. McKnight and a group of his friends, who maintained that the sexual contact was consensual. Mr. McKnight testified that the women were wrong or lying.

All but two of the assaults allegedly took place in Mr. McKnight’s condo in downtown Edmonton, a short walk from the country-themed bar in Knoxville, where he worked and partyed.

The youngest of the women was then 17, the oldest 22.

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During the trial, the women reported experiencing long periods of dense blackout, sometimes waking up in the midst of unwanted sexual activity with Mr. McKnight, feeling sick, confused and terrified, sometimes unable to move or call for help.

Testifying in his own defense, Mr McKnight described in detail every woman and every night, right down to opening a bottle or touching a woman’s hand.

The charges were decided by a jury, and because the jury’s deliberations are secret, it is not clear what facts Mr. McKnight was convicted of, nor what level of intent and deliberation the jurors found in his actions.

Bottos argued that the guilty verdicts do not mean that the jury accepted everything the women said, and that if the jurors thought that Mr. McKnight had drugged his victims, they would likely have found guilty in the other cases “, and the other women were allegedly believed.

It will be for Justice Sulyma to decide whether aggravating factors, such as drugs, were present.

Mr. McKnight has no prior criminal record and Mr. Bottos says that the letters to be presented in sentencing describe his “maturation, regrets and personal improvement”. Bottos said impact statements in which four of the five victims and several of their relatives spoke of how the assaults had devastated their lives were “hard to hear”, but in some cases rather “public dress” Which should not be given. too much clout by the court.

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Mr McKnight had at one point faced 26 sexual and physical assault charges against 21 women, but some did not proceed. Two other cases to be tried were stayed after the women decided they did not want to testify.

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