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An Iqaluit man whose criminal case has dragged through the justice system for a year and a half has failed in his attempt to switch back to not-guilty pleas to assault and sexual assault charges.

Kelly Akpaleapik originally pleaded not guilty in October 2018 and chose to be tried by judge alone.

“Mr. Akpaleapik has not satisfied me that there is a reasonable possibility that he would not have pleaded guilty in different circumstances,” Justice Paul Bychok ruled.
NNSL file photo

Then in June 2019 when his trial was scheduled, Akpaleapik changed his pleas to guilty.

A sentencing hearing was subsequently set for Aug. 19.

A number of adjournments followed. By Jan. 10, Akpaleapik appeared in court once again – this time with his third lawyer – and requested to switch his guilty pleas to not guilty, as he sought a trial after all.

Judge Paul Bychok noted that this change of heart encompassed 214 days and six court appearances.

By February, Akpaleapik’s fourth lawyer filed a formal notice to withdraw the guilty pleas.

The accused wrote to the court that he was under “considerable pressure” from the complainant, whom he alleged had been harassing him and his common-law spouse.

“I (pleaded) guilty in the misplaced hope that the harassment would stop once the charges were dealt with. The harassment continued,” Akpaleapik wrote. “I am not guilty of the charges and I believe I have a good defence to those charges.”

Bychok said he found Akpaleapik’s evidence to be “entirely self-serving” and many of his allegations to be unsubstantiated.

Although one of the defence lawyers asserted that his client was “overwhelmed” and that “he did not know what to do” when he pleaded guilty, Bychok said the evidence doesn’t support that point of view. He found that the accused made his pleas voluntarily and was properly informed.

“Mr. Akpaleapik has not satisfied me that there is a reasonable possibility that he would not have pleaded guilty in different circumstances. Mr. Akpaleapik’s case will proceed to sentencing,” Bychok’s April 29 decision reads, although a date for sentencing is not indicated.

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Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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