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Men acquitted of 1980s sex assault
Judge said he wants the complainant to know his verdict doesn't mean the crime didn't happen

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 3, 2014

Three Cambridge Bay residents charged with sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl in the 1980s have been found not guilty by a Nunavut judge.

Justice Earl Johnson wrote in his decision Jan. 24 that he was convinced the complainant believed her story but the Crown failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"It would be dangerous to convict the accused," Johnson stated. "I hope the complainant understands that my finding does not mean what she believes happened did not occur."

The complainant, who cannot be named, first told police about the incident in 2011 after speaking with a counsellor at the Fort Smith women's correctional facility.

She alleges the incident occurred sometime between 1980 and 1981 while she was living with her family in a two-bedroom house in Cambridge Bay.

Jack Ekpakohak, James Ekpakohak and Allen Kanayok came over to party with the complainant's brother and mother, who were both drinking homebrew at the time, she alleged.

Meanwhile, the accused was in her room doing homework.

She said she drew the attention of one of the men, Jack or James, when she went to get a glass of water. After she returned to her room he came in and asked why she wasn't asleep. She explained she had homework.

He left but later returned and called for the two other accused to join him.

The men then held her down and took turns raping her, the complainant testified.

She said her brother and mother were passed out from drinking.

The men told her not to tell anyone and threatened to beat her if she did, she said.

However, the complainant's testimony raised questions about her credibility. Some of the evidence she gave conflicted with her police statement and passages she wrote about the incident in her journal.

She was fuzzy about what she was wearing, who came into the room first and whether or not she cried out during the incident.

She said she turned to drinking to forget the crime and it's affected her memory.

The complainant also has a lengthy criminal record with 11 convictions.

One of her convictions is for public mischief because she told police she had been sexually assaulted and later denied the story.

Lawyers for Jack Ekpakohak and James Ekpakohak also noted that the complainant still associated with the accused after the alleged crime.

She even visited James Ekpakohak in Yellowknife when he was at a medical boarding home.

Jack Ekpakohak was the only accused to take the stand during the trial. He denied ever raping the complainant but had trouble remembering that far back.

He admitted it was possible he drank with James Ekpakohak and Kanayok at the complainant's house, although not between 1980 and 1982.

Johnson said he didn't put much stock in Jack Ekpakohak's denial but had trouble convicting the accused based on what he heard from the complainant.

"The complainant's evidence suffers from a lack of context and there are significant inconsistencies as identified by counsel for the accused. Her description of the incident was a bare-bones statement," he wrote in his Jan. 24 decision, adding he also took issue with her previous charge for public mischief.

"I also have difficulty with the complainant's association with Jack and James after the alleged event. These actions are inconsistent with someone who had been scared enough by alleged threats to avoid complaining to someone about what happened."

The men were found not guilty of rape and sex with a person under 14 years old, charges that were laid under the previous Criminal Code.

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