A central Alberta Mountie accused of asking a woman in custody to lift her shirt and show him her breasts has been found not guilty of sexual assault and criminal breach of trust.
Justice Grant Dunlop acquitted Const. Jason Tress following a week-long trial in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.
The complainant, Melissa Heinrichs, told court earlier this week that Tress twice asked her to lift her shirt while she was in RCMP custody on July 1, 2016.
She said the first time was while they were inside a police vehicle travelling to the RCMP detachment after Heinrichs had been arrested.
Heinrichs told court that Tress also asked her to lift her shirt while they were in the fingerprint room at the detachment.
Tress told court that while he did notice Heinrichs was not wearing a bra, he did not make any vulgar comments, instead offering to get her additional clothing.
Dunlop said he found Tress’s testimony to be reasonable.
“The Crown has failed to establish Tress made vulgar comments, asked her to show breasts,” Dunlop said Friday. “Constable Tress said those things did not happen, and I believe him.”
Dunlop also pointed out several inconsistencies between the testimony Heinrichs gave at a preliminary hearing in October and the one she gave at trial, casting doubt on her credibility.
Notably, Heinrichs said at the preliminary hearing that Tress grabbed her multiple times while in the fingerprint room. At trial, she testified that he never touched her.
Dunlop also noted that Heinrichs said she was going through withdrawal from drugs on the day she was arrested, creating serious doubts about her ability to directly recall what happened that day.
“There is no evidence of assault, let alone sexual assault,” defence lawyer Robb Beeman said during closing arguments. “She admitted to lying on matters that go to the very heart of this case.”
Given there was no video or audio recordings of the allegations, Dunlop said he was left with the contradictory evidence provided by their testimonies.
Tress has been on paid leave from the RCMP since July 2016 and is currently working in the oilfields.