A Sudbury lawyer has been found not guilty of all charges against him.
Adam Castonguay, 29 was charged in January, 2021 with sexual assault, sexual assault-choking, and assault causing bodily harm for an alleged incident that took place in December, 2020. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
A publication ban is in place to protect the complainant’s identity and evidence that would identify her.
The Sept. 29 reading of the verdict took place virtually for most, with Crown, defence counsel, the judge, and the complainant, as well as Castonguay, participating by Zoom.
Upon acquitting Castonguay of all charges, Justice Lori Thomas said she based her decision on the question of reasonable doubt.
“It may mean sometimes a guilty person is acquitted, but it is a necessary consequence to ensure that an innocent person is not convicted,” she said.
While she said that the testimony descriptions of events prior to the alleged assault from both Castonguay and the complainant were in line, their individual descriptions of the events were “diametrically opposed.”
She said that both complainant and Castonguay are lawyers, “and though junior, they were careful with their wording and evidence.”
Both testified they had been drinking, but there was no evidence of level of sobriety, said Thomas.
“This was not a credibility contest,” she said. “But I cannot disregard the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence.”
The case centred on the complainant's allegations that Castonguay sexually and physically abused her at a Christmas party in December 2020. She testified he assaulted her, choked her, and threw her so hard against a couch she lost consciousness and suffered a concussion.
In his testimony, Castonguay said that while he shared a consensual kiss or two and made out with the woman, he did not sexually assault her.
As for the head injury, Castonguay said the woman was sitting on his left leg when he was seated on the couch. He said she pulled his shirt as she fell back and struck her head on a couch arm.
The complainant testified she and Castonguay attended a Christmas party in the city Dec. 11 and 12, 2020 and they both consumed alcohol.
Once they were alone, the woman said Castonguay made uninvited and increasingly violent advances. She said he kissed her and touched her forcibly in her genital region. She also testified he attempted to undress her while she struggled and told him ‘No’ repeatedly. She said he simulated oral sex over the jeans she was wearing and at one point choked her to the point of unconsciousness while pinning her down, as well as throwing her against a couch and causing the back of her head to strike a couch arm.
It was four days after the event the complainant went to a walk-in clinic because of her alleged head injury. She was diagnosed with a concussion. She went to the hospital to have a sexual assault examination the next day.
The nurse, who testified at trial, told the court she did not find evidence of concussion. She found bruising on the backs of the complainant’s thighs, but the age of them could not be determined based on their colour and low-level of pain response to touch displayed by the complainant.
The complainant also said she suffered from vaginal and anal soreness for about one week, as well as anal bleeding for about one month when she would defecate. The nurse did not find evidence of this.
The jeans that the complainant wore that night were entered into evidence at that examination. Forensic scientist Sonja Stadler testified at trial that a cut-out section from the complainant’s jeans, as well as the crotch area of the jeans, were tested for DNA. Stadler said a DNA mixture was found with the cut-out section. She said Castonguay could not be excluded as the contributor for the major amount of male DNA found and that the likelihood of him being the contributor was 990 to 1.
For his part, Castonguay testified that there was only consensually kissing, in addition to light touching.
In her verdict, Thomas said in her decision that while the DNA evidence is corraborative to the complainants testimony, “it is not conclusive as to whether the sexual assault occurred.”
There was also a text message the next day that gave the justice pause, sent by the complainant after she got in the cab that night.
The complainant testified the two were not separated during the four-hour period between the time they were left alone and when the two took separate cabs to get home. She alleges that she was unable to leave as he was always with her; he said that he smokes at least every 30-40 minutes, and did so that night.
The complainant texted Castonguay while in the cab, headed home. She noted that the cab “smelled more like a dart (cigarette) than he did.” The judge found that corresponded more to Castonguay’s assertion than the complainants regarding the number of times the two were separated.
“She had created a narrative where he refused to leave her alone,” said Thomas.
Thomas said it was not “a credibility contest,” but added “I cannot disregard the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence.”
The complainant has also filed a $13-million civil suit against Castonguay in Sault Ste. Marie court. Thomas said this could be seen as “motive to fabricate”, she did not find that to be the case.
In a separate case, assault and forcible confinement charges against Castonguay from a different alleged victim were dropped in early June 2021 after he agreed to enter into a common-law peace bond with the complainant.
Castonguay is also facing a hearing from the Law Society of Ontario on Oct. 6.
In 2021, the Law Society of Ontario moved to have Castonguay suspended due to the serious nature of criminal allegations against him, but were unsuccessful. Instead, the Law Society Tribunal Hearing Division placed restrictions on Castonguay’s ability to practice.
Called an “interlocutory order” that restriction was then removed by the Law Society in August 2021, and recently, a Notice of Motion filed by the LSO on July 14 accused Castonguay of breaching the August 2021 Law Society order that prohibited him from attending any place where he knows the complainant in the sexual assault case works.
According to the notice of motion, Castonguay breached his release on May 29 by allegedly attending the place of work of the complainant in his assault case and not immediately leaving when he learned the complainant was there. The Law Society order states Castonguay engaged “in intimidating behaviour towards the complainant, who is also the complainant in the respondent’s serious sexual assault trial, which has not yet concluded, by lingering in the [REDACTED] after a [REDACTED]asked him to leave.”
Castonguay has been charged by Greater Sudbury Police for breach of release restrictions relating to the assault case. His next appearance on those charges Oct. 11
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com