Northwoods Inn owner John Pontes found guilty of groping tenant, but not raping her

The owner of the Northwoods Inn and Suites in Saskatoon has been found guilty of sexual assault for grabbing a female tenant’s breasts, but not for a rape she alleged happened later that night.

Both allegations against John Viveiros Pontes stem from June 1, 2017 and therefore were part of the same charge, Judge Morris Baniak explained when giving his decision in Saskatoon provincial court on Thursday.

He found Pontes not guilty of extortion — the criminal offence of obtaining something through force or threats. In this case, the alleged threat was eviction. 

The woman testified at Pontes’s trial in September that he told her she could stay at the motel, despite being short on rent, and have a job if they had sex.

She said she initially agreed to the sex-for-rent plan, but changed her mind when she went to Pontes’s suite. The woman told court that he held her down and raped her when she tried to leave.

The issue of consent was not a factor because Pontes denied having sex with the woman or touching her in a sexual manner, Baniak said.

He disagreed with the latter statement, saying the woman’s evidence about Pontes groping her breasts and feeling for a “wire” in a backroom of the motel before allegedly asking for sex was incredibly detailed and not “materially discredited.”

“I believe her. Her testimony was both credible and reliable,” he said.

However, Baniak found her evidence about the alleged rape to be less coherent and difficult to follow. Although the woman said she was overpowered, Baniak noted that Pontes is a 75-year-old overweight man who struggles to walk and “does not strike me as being particularly agile or athletic.”

There were no medical reports, DNA evidence, rape kit results or witness testimony to corroborate the woman’s testimony, Baniak said.

“The Crown bears the burden of proving the offence alleged beyond a reasonable doubt. Absence of evidence can give rise to reasonable doubt.”

Sentencing on the sexual assault conviction is scheduled to take place on Feb. 12.

Pontes is also charged with sexual assault, extortion and uttering a death threat against a separate woman. That trial is also scheduled for February.

bmcadam@postmedia.com

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