Ex-mayor’s trial: He said, she said and a judge who must decide

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The judge made it clear that there is a lot about ex-Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch’s sexual assault trial that doesn’t make sense.

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The judge made it clear that there is a lot about ex-Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch’s sexual assault trial that doesn’t make sense.

And Superior Court Michael Carnegie suggested during closing arguments in the case Thursday that he could have used a bit more evidentiary sources to help him make his ultimate decision.

Birtch, 49, was a two-term mayor until his sound defeat at the polls in 2022 amid the criminal charges. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of assault in connection with a woman with whom he had an intimate relationship in 2020 and 2021.

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What’s missing in the case is routine evidence often seen during trials to corroborate the testimony of Birtch and the 45-year-old female complainant. There are no police reports, medical records, extensive cellphone extractions or other eye witnesses to the violence each one them said happened during their relationship.

For example, the judge wondered: How does he assess the photos the complainant said she took of her injuries in the summer of 2021, which she said she sent Birtch, but have no date stamp? And why wasn’t there evidence of phone records, or lack of them, proving Birtch’s claim that he never saw the photos until shown them by his own lawyer as part of the Crown’s potential evidence?

Apart of the brief testimony from Birtch’s son, Carnegie has been asked to focus on the credibility of the 45-year-old complainant and Birtch and sort out what happened between them.

The woman, whose identity is protected by court order, testified emotionally that she was punished by Birtch with violence on two occasions during their relationship when she refused to perform a certain sex act and once, when she agreed to the act, but was unable to withdraw her consent halfway through.

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She said Birtch could be “Mr. Wonderful” but at other times, he drank heavily and could be aggressive and angry.

Birtch denied all of it during his testimony. He said the woman was an obsessive, manipulative, jealous partner who was often inebriated, threatened him with violence and retribution by bikers if he spoke to other women. He portrayed the complainant to police as “a woman scorned” who fabricated the allegations months after their relationship ended when he moved on.

What was clear over the four days of trial is that Birtch had a very messy, uneven love life after his separation and divorce. The testimony painted a picture of two people who had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Both defence lawyer James Battin and assistant Crown attorney Artem Orlov focused their closing arguments on the specific inconsistencies in the evidence of the encounters at a London hotel on Valentine’s Day 2021, during a drive home through the Oxford County countryside that summer 2021 and at Birtch’s home in December 2021.

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Battin told Carnegie there just isn’t enough evidence to convict Birtch, that the woman was not telling the truth about what happened, and that the Crown’s case was speculative at best. He was replying to Orlov’s detailed assessment of the evidence, where he urged Carnegie to accept the woman’s version over what he described at times as Birtch’s “made-up story.”

Orlov said Birtch intentionally tried to distance himself from the woman and portray her in a bad light to deflect attention from himself. Orlov added that it made no sense Birtch didn’t report the alleged violence inflicted upon him to police.

Orlov called it evidence of Birtch trying to obstruct what really happened, but Carnegie suggested Birtch “took the position this is a combustible relationship” and “he was trying to keep it from boiling over.”

The woman testified she never went to police or to hospital because Birtch sat on the boards of both institutions in his role as mayor. Carnegie said he thought he would have a similar explanation from Birtch.

Orlov pointed to text messages two weeks after a final encounter at Birtch’s home – she said she was sexually assaulted, he said she broke in and his son escorted her out immediately – that were friendly and supportive. That should suggest that Birtch wasn’t telling the truth, Orlov said.

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“He’s dealing with it himself,” Carnegie countered. “He doesn’t want to be on the front page.”

The judge, however, was also puzzled by Birtch’s description of the woman breaking into his bedroom through an exterior door off the roof of his carport and him ordering her out, when the woman testified it was the same incident where she said she was assaulted.

Puzzling, the judge added, was the evidence from Birtch’s teenaged son, who said he heard his father yell and ran to the bedroom to find out what had happened. The teen saw the woman and escorted her out, but allowed her to return to gather her bag and shoes.

If it was a sudden break-in, Carnegie wondered, why did she take off her footwear?

Carnegie is expected to have a decision on Aug. 8.

Meanwhile, Birtch has a second trial on similar charges in London involving another complainant. It’s scheduled for September. He is also facing an impaired driving charge and a dangerous driving charge stemming from a crash in Oxford County in October.


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