Paxton found not guilty of assaulting girlfriend
CALGARY - A judge has found a 31-year-old man not guilty of confining and assaulting a former girlfriend whose testimony the justice characterized as "rife with inconsistencies."
"I cannot, will not, convict the accused," Justice Robert Hall said Thursday in acquitting Dustin Paxton of forcible confinement, sexual assault causing bodily harm and assault.
"She has a history of lying. She had lived a life of crime," said Hall, referring to the complainant who was 17 at the time of the alleged assaults in 2009.
The young woman told the court that she had "hooked up" with Paxton early that year and, although it was cordial at the beginning, the relationship soon led to physical and sexual violence.
Her name cannot be released because of a publication ban.
"I observed her demeanour," Hall said. "She tended to dramatize her evidence. She performed for the court."
The complainant was not present when the verdict was read. Paxton was clearly emotional and wiped away tears.
"Everyone can appreciate these charges are ones that really do have a social stigma to (them)," Paxton's lawyer, Jim Lutz, said outside court. "Even within the jail culture itself these really do carry a significant stigma so that's something that has been erased today," he said.
"We have other things to deal with, unfortunately, for Mr. Paxton. This is the first of a long trip for him."
It was the first of three trials for Paxton.
He was arrested last August after warrants were issued by police in Calgary and Regina. He was initially accused of the aggravated assault and forcible confinement of a man he lived with. Police allege the man was tortured over a period of months before being dumped in April 2010 at a Regina hospital.
Paxton's trial on those charges is scheduled to begin Sept. 27.
A third trial, involving charges of assault on two other individuals, is scheduled for December.
Lutz said a turning point in the trial was the decision to put Paxton on the witness stand, where he admitted he had a brief relationship with the teen. But he testified that he had not hurt her in any way and had broken off all contact after discovering she had lied about her age.
The defence lawyer said it was important to refute the former girlfriend's testimony.
"If you're stuck in that situation, the rule of thumb is usually ... put (the defendant) on the stand and let them tell their story. He's got a lot on his plate and a lot stacked against him so you never take anything for granted."
Paxton will remain in custody until his September trial, which is expected to last five weeks.