Two men who sexually assaulted and drugged a 24-year-old woman for hours at a downtown Toronto bar have been sentenced to nine years in prison, but one may soon be released on bail pending appeal due to recent ruling about jury selection.
Delivering the sentence in a downtown courtroom on Wednesday, Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot said the “two predators” committed a “prolonged, violent, degrading sexual assault,” showing a level of callousness that is hard to believe. Accordingly, they deserved an “exemplary sentence,” he said.
After deliberating for four days last year, a jury found College Street Bar owner Gavin MacMillan, 45, and bar manager Enzo DeJesus Carrasco, 34, guilty of gang sexual assault and drugging to facilitate a sexual assault.
MacMillan has remained on bail pending his sentence, but DeJesus Carrasco, who faces two more trials on three counts of sexual assault involving three complainants, has been in custody since the jury verdict in November.
The jury could not agree on whether the two men unlawfully confined the woman on the night of Dec. 14, 2016, and whether DeJesus Carrasco raped her the following morning at his apartment. The Crown dropped those charges after the jury verdict. DeJesus Carrasco was acquitted of a sexual assault charge from when he was alone at the bar with the victim earlier in the night.
The Crown and defence have presented two very different versions of what happened that night, which was capture on security cameras at the bar which did not have sound.
The Crown sought a sentence of 12 years in prison for both men, arguing the several hours of graphic video showed a vulnerable woman being repeatedly sexually assaulted while being either overpowered, incapable of consenting due to alcohol and cocaine or while unconscious. Prosecutor Rick Nathanson stressed the “catastrophic” impact on the victim who has lasting physical and psychological injuries.
MacMillan’s defence lawyer Sean Robichaud argued that the judge should find that the sexual assault was limited to only one portion of the night, in the main area of the bar. He said in that case, a sentence of 12 months would be appropriate.
DeJesus Carrasco’s lawyer Uma Kancharla said the sexual assault should only apply to one instance near the start of the sexual activity, where the victim appears to lose consciousness. She argued a six-month sentence should be given.
Both defence lawyers said, on the Crown’s version of events, a sentence of two years was fair.
The victim, whose identity is under a publication ban, was not in court but her mother was. In a searing victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing she said of her daughter: “She is truly our hero and one hell of a fighter.”
Her words came amid the possibility of the convictions being overturned, forcing a second trial, after a Court of Appeal ruling that found new jury selection rules should have been used in cases that predated the change in law. Despite a request for a mistrial by the defence due to the jury verdicts stemming from an improperly chosen jury, Dambrot said there was too much uncertainty not to leave it up to the appeal court to decide.
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MacMaillan is scheduled to have a hearing seeking bail pending appeal later Wednesday afternoon. If granted, he will be released.
More to come.