April 24, 2009

Acquittal in D’Angelo Trial

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:02 pm by sacetalks

The former head of Steelback Brewery, Frank D’Angelo, was acquitted of sexual assault charges this week in Ontario Superior Court. Justice John Hamilton says that he found both the accused and the survivor’s stories credible but that the Crown did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge says D’Angelo was “probably guilty” but this was not enough to convict. Of course, D’Angelo claims he is exonerated. An Ontario Crown prosecutor commented on how difficult it is for women to press charges in sexual assault cases and how the process makes it unlikely that a woman would make a false accusation and carry it through the courts. “Why would a woman claim rape? Why go through it, not just once, but twice (at the preliminary hearing and trial)? Why be cross-examined and have your life exposed? What does she get out of this?”

Cases like this one are often cited by people as evidence that false allegations abound. But the reality is that the judge in this case felt that the accused was probably guilty, but that the legal standard for a guilty verdict was not met. The two are very different things. Our courts require that guilt be proven beyond reasonable doubt. A lack of enough conclusive evidence to convict does not mean that a sexual assault didn’t happen. It simply means that there’s not conclusive proof that it did.

I can imagine that for a judge in this circumstance, it must be frustrating to know that an offender is likely walking free but that our legal standards dictate that a guilty verdict is not appropriate. The standard of guilt is important; it protects people from wrongful conviction and is a vital part of our legal system. However, this case and similar ones are often used by people to claim that false allegations are rampant, when what is actually so common is that there’s just not enough evidence to convict or often even for police to lay charges.

http://www.canada.com/Former+Steelback+Brewery+head+acquitted+sexual+assault/1518702/story.html
http://www.cp24.com/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090421/090421_dangelo_case/20090421/?hub=CP24Home
http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/622309

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