A tense courtroom erupted in shouts and cries of relief Friday as Peter Charlie Tsetta was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in separate attacks in 2017.
“You (expletive) liar,” yelled the now-convicted 50-year-old Ndilo man, turning to hurl a barrage of insults at his victim — who sat just a feet away in the courtroom gallery — following the decision.
Justice Louise Charbonneau found Tsetta guilty of sexually assaulting the woman – who routinely sat in court surrounded by a group of friends and supporters – during a brutal attack at his Ndilo home in June 2017.
The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified in late May during Tsetta’s judge-alone trial in NWT Supreme Court.
She said she’d been drinking in downtown Yellowknife when Tsetta, sharing his alcohol with her, invited her back to his Ndilo home, telling her “don’t worry, you’ll be safe.”
Through tears, the victim told the court she awoke to Tsetta pinning her down and raping her in his bedroom.
Tsetta’s victim reported the sexual assault to RCMP the next day. She was taken to hospital.
The woman told the court she “lived in hate,” following the attack – the only way she knew how to cope with the vicious assault, she said.
Handing down her decision, Charbonneau called the woman’s testimony “compelling.”
Tsetta was also convicted of unlawfully confining her during the June 2017 attack.
Charbonneau found Tsetta guilty of sexually assaulting another female victim – who is now deceased – just one month earlier, in May 2017.
The sexual assaults both occurred while Tsetta was released on bail for another sexual assault charge laid in March 2017 – a charge that has since been stayed by prosecutors.
The late victim gave a statement to police two months after she was raped by Tsetta, recounting a starkly similar attack.
She told police Tsetta invited her back to his house after the two ran into each other downtown. The woman passed out at his house, waking up to him raping her, she told RCMP.
Following the victim’s death, prosecutors relied on the woman’s statement to police, along with her testimony a preliminary inquiry, during trial.
Despite a challenge from Tsetta’s lawyer, Evan McIntyre, who argued the dead woman’s evidence shouldn’t be presented in court, partly because she couldn’t be cross-examined, Charbonneau ruled the woman’s testimony was admissible at trial.
Charbonneau said she completely disagreed with the defence’s assertion that the late victim’s testimony wasn’t corroborated, pointing to testimony from an employee at the Vital Abel House – where the woman sought refuge after the sexual assault – and the testimony of Tsetta himself.
In June, Tsetta took the stand. He denied ever sexually assaulting her – but his testimony about the night in question – where they met; how they drank together at his home – aligned with the deceased victim’s recollections, said Charbonneau, who called her statements “reliable.”
That reliability, she said, wasn’t diminished by the fact she told police she’d been drinking that night. There’s no possibility she mistook being sexually assaulted, just as the June 2017 victim couldn’t be mistaken about what happened to her – and who did it, said Charbonneau.
Tsetta, who was also charged with unlawfully confining the deceased victim, was found not guilty of the offence by Charbonneau.
Prosecutors argued that when Tsetta covered the victim’s mouth during the assault to prevent her from screaming when someone knocked at his door — part of her account of the sexual assault — that the action constituted unlawful confinement.
In the judge’s view, the act – an aggravating feature of the attack itself – was “part and parcel,” with the sexual assault. It wasn’t clear, she said, that the act constituted a separate offence.
Tsetta will be back in court on Aug. 19, when a date for sentencing will likely be set.