Sentencing proceedings will continue next week for a 33-year-old former bar promoter convicted of sexually assaulting five young women he met in the Edmonton bar scene from 2010 to 2016.
The proceedings this week involved three days of legal arguments, victim-impact statements from four of his victims, and testimony from Matthew McKnight about a jailhouse beating he suffered after his arrest, which the defence will argue should reduce the prison sentence he receives.
The Crown has argued Mr. McKnight should be sentenced to 22.5 years in prison, and that the jailhouse beating should have no effect. Defence lawyer Dino Bottos has not yet told court what sentence he is seeking.
The sentencing hearing was slated to finish on Friday, but has now been adjourned to next Thursday for further defence submissions and argument. The matter is set for two more days.
Mr. McKnight went to trial last October on 13 counts of sexual assault against 13 women. He was convicted by a jury in January of five sexual assaults, and found not guilty of the other eight. His sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for April, but was delayed because of the pandemic.
A number of the women – those whose cases resulted in convictions and those whose didn’t – have been present throughout the proceedings. Mr. McKnight’s mother and a small group of supporters have also been in court, seated in a separate area of the courtroom.
Mr. McKnight testified this week about being beaten by his roommate while in segregation at the Edmonton Remand Centre. A video played repeatedly in court showed the inmate approaching Mr. McKnight, punching him and then kicking him repeatedly after he fell to the ground. A number of guards then surrounded Mr. McKnight, eventually walking him out of the blood-spattered room with a hood over his head, typically used to prevent inmates from spitting.
Mr. McKnight said he didn’t intend to resist the guards, but was stunned and confused from the attack. He testified he fears for his life in prison, and is just hoping to survive.
Mr. McKnight also described other consequences he has experienced since his arrest, including being subject to a nightly curfew on bail. He said his mother has drained her retirement savings to pay for his defence, and that without his parents’ support he would be bankrupt. He said he hasn’t dated or “had any hookups” since he was charged.
The Crown has said the sexual assaults were orchestrated and deliberate, and warrant serious penalty. Prosecutor Katherine Fraser called the assaults “heinous acts of sexual violence” that must be denounced by the court.
The four victims who have made victim-impact statements before the court have relayed the deep and devastating effects of the sexual assaults on their lives.
Delivering her statement before the court on Friday, a woman who was assaulted by Mr. McKnight in December, 2014, said the attack “has changed my entire world.”
The woman, whose name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, said she misses her family being able to hug her without warning, or without her unintentionally stepping away, and said she lives with crippling fear and anxiety.
She talked about trying not to panic if someone approaches her or bumps into her accidentally. She wiped away a tear as she described her children asking, “Mommy, why do you look scared? Mommy, are you okay?” and, “Mommy, why are you crying?”
“I want more than anything in this world to be the person I was before that night,” she said. “That night I lost a part of myself that I haven’t ever been able to find again. I’ve only seen that old self for the briefest of moments before she disappears again.”
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