Judge calls sex assault case against mentally challenged man a Kafkaesque nightmare and releases him

Judge calls sex assault case against mentally challenged man a Kafkaesque nightmare and releases him
Judge calls sex assault case against mentally challenged man a Kafkaesque nightmare and releases him

The charges Roger Lee Desmarais faced involved two sexual assaults that occurred on Mount Royal on Sept. 30, 2010. In the first case, a woman who was jogging along the mountain was grabbed by a man. In the second case, another female jogger was grabbed, forcibly constrained and the man groped her. 

A Quebec Superior Court judge placed a stay of proceedings on sexual assault charges that were filed against a mentally challenged man seven years ago and ordered he be released from custody on Friday after calling the case filed against him a procedural nightmare. 

Justice Marc-André Blanchard described the case against Roger Lee Desmarais, which dated back to 2010, “Kafkaesque” and issued the highly unusual order he be released from the prisoner’s dock immediately. Detention centre guards hesitated to follow Blanchard’s order while saying it didn’t fit in with their procedures, but Desmarais was released to a legal guardian. He will reside in Ontario with a group that specializes in treating people with intellectual disabilities.

The charges Desmarais faced involved two sexual assaults that occurred on Mount Royal on Sept. 30, 2010. In the first case, a woman who was jogging along the mountain was grabbed by a man. In the second case, another female jogger was grabbed, forcibly constrained and the man groped her. 

At that time, in 2010, Desmarais was already a repeat sex offender. Court documents and parole records filed in previous cases detailed how Desmarais was unable to control his urges, and saw sexual violence on strangers as a means to channel his anger toward women he knew. He committed his first sexual assaults as an adult in eastern Montreal when he was 18. In 2001, he noticed a woman while walking down a street, began masturbating and then groped the victim before she managed to flee. He later, also in 2001, noticed a girl on a city bus and followed her when she disembarked. He pursued the girl for a while, pushed her to the ground and groped her. 

Three months before the women were attacked on Mount Royal, a doctor who evaluated Desmarais in a different case determined he was never, and would never be, fit to stand trial because of his intellectual deficiency. In subsequent evaluations, Desmarais was found to have the mental capacity of an eight-year-old. 

Despite knowing it would be difficult to make the argument Desmarais could tell the difference from right and wrong, the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (the DPCP or public prosecutions department) continued to pursue the case even though it acknowledged he had long ago already been detained longer than his sentence would be if he were convicted of the sexual assaults.

A prosecutor recently told Blanchard if Desmarais were to plead guilty this year he would have been sentenced to time served and probation for the sexual assaults and time served for having briefly escaped custody while at the Philippe Pinel Institute in 2013.  

Desmarais’s lawyers, Jeffrey Boro and Annie Emond, argued Desmarais’s case had fallen into a void or a “no man’s land” and that the DPCP did not know what to do with him. Blanchard agreed with the defence attorneys.

“This is an obvious abuse of process. It is shocking. Our system cannot tolerate that we treat a citizen like (Desmarais) in a similar ,” Blanchard wrote in his decision. “The Court cannot accept such a situation to perdure any longer.

“It shocks the conscience of the Court firstly, that an individual be kept in prison for a period of more than four years when he is supposed to be kept in a hospital or a detention centre where he will be able to receive the adequate supervision required by his condition and, secondly, for a period of time that exceeds the sentence he would receive should he ultimately be (convicted).” 

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