A trial is underway in Dartmouth Provincial Court for a former pizzeria worker accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a food delivery.
Jainish Sureshkuma Patel, 26, from Halifax allegedly had sex with the woman without her consent at her Highfield Park flat in Dartmouth on the evening of May 31, 2020.
The incident was reported to police after the woman underwent a sexual assault examination at Dartmouth General Hospital on the morning of June 2. She claimed she was assaulted on the evening of June 1, but police determined it had actually happened a night earlier.
Patel was questioned by investigators on June 2 and arrested on June 4 after police took a statement from the complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
The first witnesses called by the Crown on Thursday were two Halifax Regional Police investigators who spoke with Patel on June 2.
Patel was not at Panada Pizza on Highfield Park Drive in Dartmouth when police first attended there this afternoon at around 2.50pm. They were told his shift would start at 4pm.
In the meantime, the police went to the woman’s apartment building to view a security video from the lobby. The video showed Patel arriving with a bag of food at 7:51 p.m., being buzzed around the building and then leaving 13 minutes later.
Police then returned to the store, where Patel was seated at a table with the owner.
The owner told Sgt. Janis Chapman that Patel, whom he knew as JP, was a good guy and would never do something like that. He said JP wanted to talk to him.
Chapman said the owner urged Patel to tell police what happened and he started talking.
After speaking with Chapman for approximately 15 minutes, Patel agreed to drive his vehicle to Burnside Police Station, where he gave a 65-minute statement which was videotaped.
At the start of the interview, Det. const. Trena Gillis told Patel he didn’t have to talk to her and was free to leave at any time. She said he had the right to speak to a lawyer.
When Gillis asked Patel if he needed an interpreter, he replied that he was fluent in English.
During the statement, Patel said he had made deliveries to the woman in the past and had agreed to buy cigarettes for her on two occasions. He said he entered his apartment once, but not on the night of May 31.
He said the woman paid for the food with her debit card, then complimented him on his tight jeans, touched his arm and told him she felt lonely. In his opinion, she was looking for sex, but he said he rejected her advances and left to complete his other deliveries.
When Gillis asked Patel why his DNA would be in the woman’s apartment, he suggested he may have sneezed on a previous visit. He said he had a random “sneezing problem”.
Patel said DNA from a sneeze could have traveled to the woman’s bedroom.
“Any other reason your DNA would be inside the apartment other than a sneeze?” Gilles asked.
“No,” Patel replied.
Later in the interview, the officer and Patel talked for several minutes about what sexual assault is and what consent means.
Defense attorney Tom Singleton asked that the interview be declared inadmissible at trial because it was involuntary.
On Friday, Singleton argued that his client did not understand why he was being questioned and therefore was unable to communicate effectively with police and lacked an “operational mindset”.
Crown attorney Cory Roberts said Patel knew he was speaking to police about an allegation of sexual misconduct and anything he said could be used against him.
“If Mr. Patel had a misunderstanding of what sexual assault is, then that’s not something that supports the voluntariness of his statement,” Roberts said.
Judge Alan Tufts said he would rule on the statement before the Crown closes its case.
On Friday, the Crown presented testimony from two other police officers, the complainant’s building maintenance technician and one of the sexual assault nurses who examined the woman on June 2.
A “rather upset” woman in hospital
Jane Collins, who was a sexual assault nurse examiner for 25 years, said the woman was anxious and cried throughout the three-hour examination. “She was pretty upset,” Collins recalled.
The woman told nurses she had ordered takeout and knew the driver from previous deliveries. She said he walked into her apartment, asked if she needed anything else, then approached her.
She said he started touching her breasts, then pushed her into the bedroom, where he pushed her face down on the bed and raped her.
The woman gave the nurses a wipe which she said she used to clean the man’s ejaculate from her back. They put the wipe in a bag, along with a pair of panties, and performed a head-to-toe examination of the woman’s body.
Collins said the woman’s left breast had multiple bruises and abrasions and was tender to the touch, her left thumb was swollen and her hips were tender.
Numerous swabs from the woman’s body were taken and placed in a sexual assault kit which was transferred to police from the hospital. Police obtained a warrant to obtain a DNA sample from Patel in March 2021.
A Gujarati interpreter was hired by the court to translate the proceedings for Patel.
The trial will resume on Monday, when the plaintiff is expected to testify. The Crown also plans to call in a DNA expert.