Owen Antoine, a 41 year-old HIV-positive man, has been found guilty of reckless HIV transmission in an Ontario court. It took the jury just five hours to deliver the verdict.
Antoine has been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The charge of administering a noxious substance was dropped by the Crown. He will be sentenced April 11th.
The case has been reported in detail in the St Thomas Times Journal over the past two years. I include highlights of the reports below, in reverse chronological order.
What seems surprising is the lack of any real evidence that it was Mr Antoine who infected the complainant. It's not even clear that they had sex, never mind unprotected sex (and although HIV can be transmitted via one heterosexual act, the odds are slim.)
The complainant does not appear to have been asked about her sexual history (why, for example, did she have an HIV antibody test in March, before she met Mr Antoine?) and there appears to have been no virological or other evidence submitted.
Perhaps this lack of information in the public domain is due to reporting restrictions?
HIV-infected man guiltyA 12-man Superior Court jury deliberated for more than five hours Thursday before finding a 41-year-old Aylmer man guilty of aggravated sexual assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and the included offence of sexual assault.
To be sentenced April 11
Saturday February 02, 2008
By Patrick Brennan Times-Journal Staff
Owen Antoine is to be sentenced April 11, Justice Johanne Morissette ordered.
On Thursday, Crown attorney Kim Johnson told court the Crown was not proceeding on the fourth charge against Antoine, administering a noxious substance.
Thursday consisted of closing arguments from both the Crown and defence, and the charge to the jury before they retired for final deliberations just after 3 p.m.
Defence counsel James Battin told the jury that while the victim had some animosity toward Antoine over what happened, it did not appear to flow both ways. He urged the jury to read the transcript carefully from a videotaped statement Antoine gave to Aylmer police. While the Crown suggested it was an open admission of guilt, Battin did not agree. He said Antoine never wavered on the stand during his testimony.
In her closing arguments, Johnson urged the jury to apply common sense in weighing the evidence. She said it was the Crown’s position Antoine admitted having sex with the woman.
She downplayed a suggestion Antoine was not in his right mind when he was questioned by Aylmer police. “He never appears upset on the video,” Johnson said.
“The real issue is whether events alleged took place,” Morissette said, beginning her summary of the law and the evidence. She reminded the jury that for a conviction on sexual assault, there had to be an application of force intentionally and against the woman’s will. “Consent requires knowledge on her part about what is going to happen,” she explained. To prove aggravated assault, the evidence must support the principle that the force used in an assault endangered the victim’s life, Morissette said.
After retiring to deliberate, the jury returned once for clarification on legal points.
A pre-sentence report has been ordered for Antoine.
Antoine’s denies intercourse with accuser
Friday February 01, 2008
By Kyle Rea Times-Journal StaffOwen Antoine testified Wednesday that he never had sexual intercourse with a woman who later told Aylmer police they had sex and he failed to disclose his HIV status. But in a video statement given shortly after his arrest in November, 2006, and played for a second time before the Superior Court of Justice yesterday, Antoine told an Aylmer police officer that he slept with her while they both were drunk.
Antoine, 41, took the stand for the second time on the third day of his jury trial in St. Thomas court.
During the first day of his testimony Tuesday, Antoine told the court he met with the complainant at an Aylmer bar in April, 2006. They each had four drinks, he testified, and he walked home with her later. She invited him inside and he fell asleep on the couch, with her sitting in a chair opposite from him. He awoke to find the woman gone.
Continuing his testimony on Wednesday, Antoine told the court he spoke with the complainant a week after meeting her for drinks and was invited over to her place for dinner with herself and her children. Antoine said they had chicken and pizza. He testified that a man, whom he identified as the woman’s boyfriend, called from Trinidad while he was there. He said he didn’t hear from the woman until August when she called him and said she had something important to talk about. After he was unable to meet with her, Antoine said he didn’t hear from her again.
“At any time did you have sex with her?” queried defence lawyer James Battin.
“No sir,” Antoine responded, testifying he didn’t go to a bar in St. Thomas, nor did he wake up next to her in bed.
“Did you put anything into her drink at the bar in Aylmer?” asked Battin.
“No sir, I would never do something like that,” he responded.
In her cross-examination, assistant Crown attorney Kim Johnson questioned Antoine about the complainant’s testimony. When asked if the woman was mistaken he responded, “Yes ma’am.”
“I never had sex with her,” he said.
“Do you remember telling the officer you did?” Johnson asked.
A video statement, recorded on Nov. 18, 2006, between Antoine and Const. Marsha Geling, of the Aylmer Police Service, was played for the second time in court. It was first played during testimony Monday. On the tape, Antoine was heard to say that he slept with her once and both of them were drunk. When asked about this on the stand, Antoine told the court he meant that he slept by her on the couch.
Again on the tape, Geling asked Antoine if he recalled using protection.
“I can’t really remember. I think I did,” he responded.
“But you’re not sure,” she asked.
“To tell you the truth, no,” Antoine said.
When asked, in court, by Johnson about his answer regarding protection Antoine testified he couldn’t recall telling the officer that. He said he was confused while giving his video statement.
“It was a long night. I didn’t have much sleep. I wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
“You didn’t tell the officer that at the time?” Johnson asked.
“No ma’am,” Antoine responded.
In re-examination by Battin, Antoine said he was upset and hadn’t gotten any sleep from the time he was taken into custody in the evening on Nov. 17 and around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 18 when he was interviewed by Geling.
Woman knew about HIV, says Antoine
Invited inside, says accused
Thursday January 31, 2008
By Kyle Rea Times-Journal Staff
Owen Antoine testified Tuesday he told the woman he had out for drinks at an Aylmer bar that he had HIV. But, he testified before the Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday, she already knew about it. She’d heard it from her friends.
Antoine, 41, took the stand yesterday in his own defence during the second day of a jury trial in St. Thomas court.
Antoine testified yesterday he met the complainant in 2006 at her workplace. He said she approached him on the street in April, 2006, and wanted to talk about Trinidad, Antoine’s home country. He said they exchanged numbers and, about two weeks later, arranged to meet at an Aylmer bar.
That night, Antoine said, he and the complainant each had four drinks -- rye and Coke.
He testified the woman spoke about a “guy she was going around with.” When asked by defence lawyer James Battin if he bought shooters, Antoine told the court he did not.
At one point during his testimony, Antoine said he told the complainant he had HIV.
“She said she already knew it. She said she had friends that know me and told her.”
They left the bar around 1 a.m., Antoine testified, and walked to the woman’s residence. He said she invited him inside, whereupon he sat on the couch, the woman in a chair opposite him, while they talked some more. “I knocked out on the couch,” Antoine said. He woke up the next morning and didn’t see the complainant, so he left to retrieve his truck -- still parked at the bar.
He said he spoke over the phone with her later that day -- and again a few days later.
Antoine’s testimony is scheduled to continue today.
Earlier on Tuesday, assistant Crown attorney Kim Johnson presented two more witnesses before wrapping up the Crown’s case. Dr. Anurag Markanday, identified as an expert witness in infectious disease and HIV detection, told the court HIV is detectable in tests between six weeks and six months from the time of infection.
Markanday was presented with two sets of test results from the complainant and asked to analyze them on the stand -- one was from March, 2006, the other June, 2006. He said the March results didn’t show the antibodies present with HIV infection. The June test “shows evidence of HIV infection.”
“It is possible, very likely, she acquired it from January ... until late April, early May,” he said.
Markanday told the jury there’s no cure for HIV, but drugs do slow the process of the disease.
“It’s like a death sentence ... while we can keep the virus suppressed, we are going to run out of options.”
Once diagnosed, the average lifespan of a person is eight to 10 years, he testified.
During cross-examination, Battin asked Markanday if it were possible to tell who gave HIV to someone.
“You can’t say he (Antoine) is the one who gave her HIV?” Battin queried.
“No, I can’t,” Markanday answered.
Dr. Sharon Baker, acting medical officer of health for Elgin, testified regarding the Section 22 order under the Health Promotion and Protection Act which Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health issued against Antoine in June, 2006. “We felt the only way to remind him of his duty of status was to issue the order,” she said.
Lights out after shooter
Awoke to find she’d had sex with HIV-infected man
Wednesday January 30, 2008
By Kyle Rea Times-Journal Staff
Drinking a shooter was the last thing she remembered. It was bought for her, she testified Monday in Superior Court of Justice, by a male acquaintance at a St. Thomas bar in April, 2006. The next morning, she awoke to find the same man beside her in bed. She asked.
They’d had sex. Two months later she was diagnosed with HIV and her life changed forever.
“I feel cheated, like my life has been ripped away from me completely,” the woman, 29, told the St. Thomas court. Her identity is protected under a court-ordered publication ban.
She was one of four witnesses who testified during the opening day of a jury trial for Owen Antoine, 40.
Testimony Monday from health officials was that Antoine was diagnosed with HIV in December, 2004. He remains in custody at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. The trial is expected to last three or four days.
The complainant testified she met a man named “Owen” -- she didn’t know his last name at the time -- in early 2006. She said one day in April, 2006, he contacted her, said it was an emergency and that he needed to speak with her. She agreed to meet him, but wasn’t interested in a relationship, she testified.
Inviting her to talk inside his truck, he drove with her to a downtown St. Thomas tavern.
Once there, the woman said, he bought her a rye and Coke which she didn’t finish. At one point, she went to the washroom and, upon returning, a shooter was sitting on the table. She told the court that she drank it, after he prompted her to do so. “I don’t remember anything after that. I don’t remember leaving the bar, I don’t remember how I got home,” she said. “I woke up in the morning and the (man) was right beside me in bed.” The woman testified she asked if they had sexual intercourse and he said yes. She asked if protection was used, and was told it was not.
In June, the woman told the court, she went to Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and tested positive for HIV. A similar test done in March, 2006, came back negative, she said.
The woman later confronted the man and asked if he had HIV. She testified that he told her he did not. The incident was then reported to Aylmer police.
Const. Marsha Geling, of the Aylmer Police Service, testified she received a description and the name “Owen” from the woman. Through her investigation, Geling told the court, she discovered an Owen Antoine who worked for an area construction company.
A video statement, recorded shortly after Antoine was taken into custody on Nov. 17, 2006, was played Monday before the court. In the video, Antoine told Geling he didn’t remember much of the night in question. He said he recalled going to a bar in Aylmer with the complainant, where he had four drinks and she had “about the same.”
Geling said she obtained a search warrant for Antoine’s medical records from the health unit in Oxford county, where he had previously lived.
Ruth Ferris, a public health nurse for Oxford County Public Health, told the court Antoine tested positive for HIV in December, 2004. She testified the health unit met with Antoine and explained his obligations -- that he had to disclose his HIV status to sexual partners and must use condoms.
In cross-examination by defence lawyer James Battin, Ferris said Antoine told health officials he was using condoms. According to testimony from director of health protection Laura McLachlin, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health became involved in May, 2006, when an Elgin county woman tested positive for HIV, and named Antoine as a sexual partner.
McLachlin said they issued a Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which places restrictions on individuals to protect the public from communicable diseases.
“We were concerned he was not telling partners about his HIV infection,” she said.
Arraignment hearing for accused in HIV case
Owen Antoine, 40, made a brief appearance via video link in St. Thomas court
Thursday March 08, 2007
By Kyle Rea Times-Journal Staff
An arraignment hearing has been set for an Aylmer-area man charged with aggravated sexual assault. Owen Antoine, 40, made a brief appearance via video link in St. Thomas court Tuesday, where his lawyer, Jim Battin of Tillsonburg, Ont., asked for an arraignment hearing on April 3.
Battin is Antoine’s new lawyer and listed as the official counsel of record after his previous lawyer, Paul Carter, was removed on Feb. 13.
Antoine is charged with five offences, including sexual assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. He has twice been denied bail -- first by the Ontario Court of Justice on Nov. 24 and by the Superior Court of Justice during a bail review application on Jan. 19. Details of both hearings are under a court-ordered publication ban. Antoine remains in custody.
HIV-positive - Nov. 21
Tuesday November 21, 2006By Kyle Rea Times-Journal Staff
AYLMER -- Aylmer police and the Elgin-St. Thomas Health Unit issued a request Monday that anyone who’s had sexual relations or sexual contact with Owen Antoine, 39, contact them as soon as possible.
Antoine, who lives in the Aylmer area, was arrested Friday and charged with aggravated sexual assault after a woman told police he failed to tell her he had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Police believe Antoine has engaged in unprotected sex with several women while knowing he was HIV positive. Only one complainant has come forward so far. HIV damages the immune system and leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), for which there’s no cure.
Police say Antoine tested positive for HIV in 2004 -- and someone who doesn’t inform their partner of this status could be charged with aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Code of Canada. “If (someones) does have HIV and does not inform their partner, yes it’s (aggravated sexual assault) because they’re endangering the life of another person,” said Const. Marsha Geling, of the Aylmer Police Service. “This is the first case of this sort in Elgin county. This is completely new ground for everybody.”
Antoine remains in custody and was scheduled to appear for a bail hearing this morning in St. Thomas court.
Anyone who’s had any form of sexual contact with Antoine is asked to get in touch with the health unit at xxx-xxx-xxxx or the Alymer police at xxx-xxx-xxxx.