In a remarkable ruling that called out rape culture and criticized the way survivors are treated by the justice system, Mustafa Ururyar was found guilty on Thursday of sexually assaulting a fellow York University doctoral student.
"Rape it was. No confusion. No uncertainty to this court," said Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker, eliciting shocked gasps and sobs from an otherwise muted group of the woman's supporters, who sat on the edge of their seats through the nearly two-hour-long ruling.
Justice Zuker found that Mr. Ururyar forced Mandi Gray to perform oral sex and engage in sexual intercourse at his apartment in the early hours of Jan. 31, 2015. Many in the courtroom broke out in applause as the verdict was delivered while Mr. Ururyar looked on, shocked by the decision.
Ms. Gray, who waived a publication ban protecting her identity, was not present at Old City Hall courthouse but released a written statement saying she would not congratulate the legal system for doing its job. She said her experience was only atypical due to her "numerous and intersecting privileges" of being a white, heterosexual woman with a graduate-level education – not indicative of any perceived progress for sexual assault complainants. "I am tired of people talking to me like I won some sort of rape lottery because the legal system did what it is supposed to do," she said in a written statement released after the conviction. "Both the judge and Crown did their jobs well, but this should not be out of the ordinary in sexual assault cases."
Over the course of reading part of his 179-page decision, which referred to the writings of Virginia Woolf and Maya Angelou, Justice Zuker grew increasingly impassioned – at times even berating Mr. Ururyar and dismissing his testimony as total fabrication.
"Such a story, scenario we heard from Mr. Ururyar from beginning to end begs credulity, a feeble, feeble attempt in hindsight that is unbelievable and incomprehensible," he told the court. "It never happened this way. None of it. … I must and do reject his evidence."
Mr. Ururyar and Ms. Gray had met two weeks prior to the assault and began a casual relationship shortly after. At the time, Mr. Ururyar was in an open relationship with another woman in Montreal.
The assault occurred after Ms. Gray texted Mr. Ururyar, who was unwell that night, and invited him to join her and some mutual friends for drinks at a bar in downtown Toronto, while alluding to the possibility of sex later that night, the court heard. Mr. Ururyar became angry at the end of the night when a threesome he had wanted with Ms. Gray and one of her friends did not materialize. He berated Ms. Gray on the walk home, calling her a "slut" and saying she had embarrassed him by being too drunk that night, the judge said.
Mr. Ururyar testified at his trial that he and Ms. Gray had engaged in consensual sex in his bedroom, after she had been sexually aggressive the entire night, groping him at the bar and initiating sex even after he tried to break up with her. Justice Zuker referred to Mr. Ururyar's attempt to "paint Ms. Gray as the seductive party animal" as "nothing short of incomprehensible," as he detailed the nature of consent and power dynamics to the court.
"No other crime is looked upon with the degree of blameworthiness, suspicion and doubt as a rape victim," he said, as several supporters wept openly in the court. "Victim blaming is unfortunately common and is one of the most significant barriers to justice and offender accountability."
He added: "The myths of rape should be dispelled once and for all. We cannot perpetuate the belief that niceness cannot co-exist with violence, evil or deviance, and consequently the nice guy must not be guilty of the alleged offence."
Crown lawyer Jennifer Lofft moved to revoke Mr. Ururyar's bail, asking that he remain in custody until sentencing. Justice Zuker said he would review the bail matter on Monday. A sentencing hearing is set to begin Oct. 24.
Linda Redgrave, the first woman to testify against Jian Ghomeshi during a trial that began in February on the same day as Mr. Ururyar's, only a few rooms away, attended court on Thursday in support of Ms. Gray. She was visibly emotional, calling it a day of validation for fellow sexual-assault complainants. "Today … gave us more hope for our fight," she said. "This judge had a lot of knowledge about sexual assaults. Behaviour, memory, all the little parts that fell apart in my trial, he acknowledged. I wish I could rewind and have him instead."
Ms. Gray, who has become an activist over the course of the trial to reform the way sexual-assault cases are handled on campus, has alleged publicly that York mishandled her case last year. The university issued a statement saying Thursday's verdict would help inform its efforts to support survivors.
"After approving a new sexual assault policy last year, York University has been engaged in developing procedures to complement the new policy and processes already in place," university spokeswoman Barbara Joy said in an e-mail. "We are on target to deliver the draft procedures this fall."