A Canadian Forces warrant officer threw himself into his lawyer's arms and his friends let out whoops of joy as he was acquitted Friday on a charge of sexually assaulting a female subordinate.
Andre Gagnon, 48, was on trial for the alleged sexual assault of then-corporal Stephanie Raymond in December, 2011, at an armoury near Quebec City.
His court martial was overseen by a colonel in front of a panel of five male soldiers who reached the verdict.
WO Gagnon's lawyers said the sex was consensual, while the Crown argued that he used his superior rank to coerce Ms. Raymond, 30, into carnal acts.
One of Ms. Raymond's lawyers, Lieutenant-Colonel Marylene Trudel, accused WO Gagnon during the court martial of using her client as an "open bar" for his sexual gratification.
WO Gagnon faced one count under section 130 of the National Defence Act as well as the Criminal Code section corresponding to sexual assault.
Ms. Raymond, who served under WO Gagnon, testified that he made advances, engaged in sexual touching and attempted to get oral sex after a holiday party.
Ms. Raymond, who was not present for the verdict, said she initially went along with his actions because she feared later reprisals.
The panel did not give reasons for its verdict, but Major Philippe-Luc Boutin, who defended WO Gagnon, said his client testified in a very clear and precise manner.
"He didn't try to hide or diminish his own involvement in the sexual exchange that was carried out," Maj. Boutin said.
"At the end of the day, I don't think Ms. Raymond had the same approach. She was very evasive on many issues … so the jury, I think, had serious doubts about the truthfulness of her story."
Ms. Raymond's lawyers said they will review the evidence and decide whether to appeal the verdict within 30 days.
"The Crown can appeal the decisions of a court martial when there is a solid chance of success and it is in the public interest to do so," said Lt.-Col. Trudel.
Ms. Raymond, who insisted her name not be protected under a publication ban, filed a complaint against WO Gagnon and was subsequently discharged by the army.