Armstrong sexual assault retrial dropped after witness's inability to testify - InfoNews

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Armstrong sexual assault retrial dropped after witness's inability to testify

March 11, 2019 - 12:05 PM

VERNON - Joseph Vance Caron walked out of the Vernon courthouse a free man today after the Crown asked for a stay of proceedings in a sexual assault retrial due to a witness's inability to testify.

The Armstrong man, born in 1969, was found guilty in 2015 of sexually assaulting the young woman in Armstrong in 2014. He was sentenced in 2017 to six years in prison, 20 years on the sex offender registry and he was designated a long-term offender, essentially putting on probation for life. Caron successfully appealed the conviction last summer, earning a retrial at Vernon Supreme Court which began last week and reached a swift conclusion today, March 11.

Though he served a lengthy term in prison already for the first conviction, the offence will be stricken from the sex offender registry and he is no longer designated a long-term offender. 

The witness, who cannot be named or identified due to a publication ban protecting the victim's identity, tried to take the stand today. The case was adjourned last week when she couldn't respond to questions under cross examination, saying he was suffering from anxiety. Defense counsel Alexander Watt asked her how she was feeling and she said she was taking medication for her anxiety.

Watt began his questions by running through the witness's stated version of events, which were alleged to have happened in May 2014. Watt asked the woman about the incident, particularly regarding a walk she took in Armstrong that night. The witness took long pauses before answering questions, occasionally having to be asked the same question twice.

When Watt asked the witness to look at photographs of a parking lot where the assault allegedly occurred, she froze. Her breathing became shallow and she visibly flinched. She was unresponsive to questions and was clearly upset. Justice Alison Beames told the witness it was all right and said she could be excused from the court room.

"My heart goes out to her," Beames said.

After the witness left the stand, Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg asked for a stay of proceedings in the matter due to the witness's inability to testify. Beames agreed.

"The case is over," she said.

Caron left the court room with two people. He could be heard saying, "Six years."

Wiberg said that with a stay of proceedings, the case is essentially over, although the Crown has one year from today to reinstate the charges if they find new evidence.

Caron has a lengthy criminal record of 18 convictions including theft, common assault and sexual assault.

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