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Trial involving sexual assault at Cape Breton Correctional Centre to resume in September

SYDNEY, N.S. — The provincial court trial for a Glace Bay man charged with sexually assaulting another inmate at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre will now continue in September.

The trial for Morgan James MacNeil, 25, began Monday and heard testimony from the only one Crown witness, the complainant, whose name is banned from publication.

Prior to the start of the trial, MacNeil pleaded guilty to a second charge of assault involving the same complainant. The offences are to have occurred at the provincial jail, located in Gardiner Mines, between Aug. 24-25, 2015.

The complainant, who is transitioning from male to female, told the court that while taking a shower in a maximum security unit at the facility, MacNeil entered the shower naked and jumped on her back before inserting his thumb in her anus.

“It hurt a lot. Nothing really goes in there. It didn’t go in all the way but it was enough to shock you and put you in alarm mode,” testified the woman.

During questioning by prosecutor John MacDonald, the woman said when MacNeil jumped on her back, she fell to the floor on her hands and knees and that’s when she was digitally penetrated.

She said she rolled her body to take MacNeil off her back and took a swing at him but missed and hit a wall. She said she suffered three broken fingers as a result.

The witness said the entire incident lasted only seconds and at no time did she ever invite MacNeil into the shower.

After the assault, she said she finished rinsing the shampoo out of her hair and attempted to leave the shower area but someone had taken her clothes, put the items in her cell and closed the door.

As a result, the woman said she had to call a guard to open her cell door.

“Because I am who I am, that doesn’t give him the right to do what he did to me,” she testified.

When questioned by defence lawyer Luke Cragg, the woman admitted to her lengthy criminal record that includes multiple driving infractions along with charges of unlawful confinement, assault and breaching court orders.

At the time of the alleged sexual assault, the woman was serving time for breaching a conditional sentence. MacNeil also has a record for offences including armed robbery and manslaughter. He was sentenced last year to seven years in a federal prison on the manslaughter charge.

In fact, both the accused and the witness were scheduled to appear in another provincial courtroom Monday on unrelated offences.

In having the witness view videotape from the cell area at the time of the incident, Cragg suggested there was no assault, given that his client was seen entering and leaving the shower area for mere seconds.

Cape Breton Regional Police arrived at the correctional centre some five days later to take pictures and interview the complainant. Despite pictures showing severe bruising on the woman’s arms and legs, from alleged assaults by MacNeil other inmates, Cragg asked the complainant why there was no picture of the injured hand.

“My father, wife, and brother are here in court and they could retrieve that information for you,” she responded.

She said prior to MacNeil entering the single shower stall, other inmates had pulled down the shower curtain and someone had thrown cold water on her.

The woman said she had trouble remembering times and dates because she suffers from severe dyslexia, anxiety, attention deficit and post-traumatic stress. She said she takes numerous medications that are not being administered while she is in jail.

She testified her life has been somewhat a train wreck, noting she spent $29,000 on a party lifestyle along with blowing $250,000 on several vehicles that she lived in because she had no place to go and that resulted in her racking up the motor vehicle offences. She no longer drives because she can’t pay the outstanding fines.

She also claimed to be innocent of most of the criminal charges because she was acting on the advice of her lawyer who told her to take the deal or spend time in jail.

In returning to court after the lunch break, it appeared the trial would continue without MacNeil who refused to leave his holding cell at the Sydney Justice Centre. He later changed his mind and did attend the hearing.

The Crown has now closed its case and Judge Amy Sakalauskas set Sept. 15 for the defence to present its case.

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