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Mistrial declared in sexual assault case after week of proceedings in St. John's

JOE GIBBONS/The Telegram
The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
-Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
JOE GIBBONS/The Telegram The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. -Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A Newfoundland Supreme Court judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a man charged with sexually assaulting a teenager.

For reasons that can’t be published because of a court order, Justice Rosalie McGrath declared a mistrial Friday morning in the case of Claude Parsons, after more than a week of proceedings in St. John’s. The seven-man, five-woman jury had been in deliberations for about a day and a half.

The case will be called again Nov. 3, when prosecutor Paul Thistle will provide an update on whether or not the Crown plans to call another trial.

Parsons was alleged to have fondled a 14-year-old girl three times during a barbecue party at a cabin in Conception Bay North in September 2015.

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The complainant, now 16, testified via video from another room in the courthouse, describing incidents at the cabin, in the back of a truck and in her family home where she said Parsons put his hand inside her pants for up to five minutes at a time. In at least one of the incidents, she said, he encouraged her to do the same to him.

The girl’s younger sister also testified.

Defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan attempted to cast doubt on the complainant’s credibility, pointing out inconsistencies in her statements given to police, during the preliminary inquiry and at trial.

Sullivan also questioned the girl about three charges she is currently facing in provincial youth court relating to a prank she and an ex-boyfriend allegedly executed a year ago. Using the boy’s cellphone, the pair allegedly contacted the girl’s mother and said the girl had been killed in a car accident. Police and emergency personnel were called, and a portion of the road was blocked to traffic for a period of time.

Sullivan alleged the complainant was mad at Parsons and his wife for reportedly calling child protection authorities about her family, and invented the sexual assaults as a way to get revenge.

McGrath gave the jury specific instructions on how they could use the information about the girl’s unrelated charges, reminding them the matter was still before the court and she has not been convicted.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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