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Okanagan man feels 'vindicated' after acquittal of sex assault charges
Still wearing his red prisoner's shirt, Ronald Teneycke walked out of the Penticton courthouse on Friday a free man.
The 50-year-old spent the last 15 months in jail awaiting his trial for charges of sexual assault with a weapon (knife), sexual assault, assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement and a breach of probation (curfew). After seven days of evidence being heard, he was acquitted of all the charges.
"I feel vindicated," he said.
Justice James Williams said in his decision on Friday that he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt because of frailties in the Crown's case. Crown council had already stated a day earlier during closing arguments that there was not enough evidence to support the sexual assault with a knife or the breach of probation charge.
The justice said he believed the testimony given by Teneycke, which was corroborated by Crown witnesses, but only up to the timeline of when the pair went to an abandoned pumphouse in Okanagan Falls where the woman claimed the assault took place. Williams said he "strongly suspects" the incident unfolded as the woman presented it in court, but there was not enough evidence for a conviction. He found Teneycke's explanation of how a consensual sexual encounter took place "unlikely" and verged on "nonsense."
"The judge doesn't want to basically say he doesn't believe the complainant. He doesn't want to basically say he believes me over her. He doesn't want to basically attach it to anything. It was a reasonable doubt that I was not guilty and acquitted and that is the way it should be," said Teneycke. "Our courts are designed to weed out things like that, to weed out the guilty or the innocent, so innocent people don't got to jail and that is what happened here today."
Teneycke said because of previous media coverage of him, the woman took advantage of it and he felt that is why he ended up behind bars awaiting a trial. He spent eight years in federal prison for sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering threats against a 17-year-old Okanagan Falls girl in 1993 and another four after being convicted of uttering threats while in prison. Justice Williams said the record diminished Teneycke's credibility, but not overwhelmingly.
Teneycke was asked if he regretted picking up the female hitchhiker.
"I don't regret trying to help people. I don't regret trying to help when they are in need. When I see somebody staggering on the road with traffic flying by, I don't regret that one bit," said Teneycke.
The judge said testimony from both Teneycke and the complainant were problematic.
"I am not saying the complainant lied, nor am I saying I believed the accused," said Williams in his decision.
During the trial, the woman, who cannot be identified, answered many of the questions posed to her with variations of "I can't recall." She admitted to consuming four or five beers that day, doing cocaine and taking an anti-depressant that exaggerated the effects of the alcohol. The judge said he doubts her claims the cocaine purchased in Keremeos by her that day was consumed by both parties. The judge also noted the woman told RCMP the colour of the homemade sex toy she was allegedly assaulted with, but during the trial said it was too dark to see anything.
Evidence was also given during the trial by a doctor who examined the woman after the alleged assault. The doctor said the woman's injuries to her genitals were consistent with force to that area. Defence for Teneycke had successfully argued it is also consistent with consensual "rough sex."
Teneycke's aunt, Terry Berg, said outside the courthouse she was "very happy" with the outcome and expected the conclusion given the evidence that was presented. Berg said Teneycke will resume living at his mother's house in Okanagan Falls after being released on Friday. The aunt said the arrest and trial of Teneycke has been hard for his whole family. She added that she hopes Teneycke moves forward from this and has a "really good life."