A sexual assault case collapsed when an inmate somehow managed to call the complainant, his common-law partner, hundreds of times from the Brandon jail.
But, in the end, he got a jail sentence nonetheless — for obstructing justice.
The inmate was being held at the Brandon jail while pending on allegations that he’d sexually assaulted and threatened his common-law girlfriend.
But — during 656 phone calls to her within 45 days — he prodded her to the point that she wouldn’t co-operate with the prosecution and the charges were ultimately dropped.
"It’s unthinkable to me that someone can make so many calls to someone they’re on no contact conditions with ... She eventually went from being a co-operative witness, to an unco-operative witness," Crown attorney Deidre Badcock told court this week as she stayed the charges.
The dropped charges, which had been laid against Joseph Clinton Antoine, had been allegedly committed at the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in April 2013.
Instead, in court this week, 27-year-old Antoine pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for the calls he placed from jail. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend on other occasions and other offences.
In May 2013, Antoine was out on bail when he breached a condition to keep the peace by having an argument with his girlfriend at her Sioux Valley home.
The month prior, at his Sioux Valley home, he assaulted her when he accused her of contacting other guys over Facebook, grabbed her by the arms and threw a punch at her that missed.
He assaulted her again in August 2013. The assault happened at the woman’s home while one of her four children was in the room. Antoine, who was intoxicated, was breaking a bail order that forbade him from attending her home and from consuming alcohol or drugs.
He then skipped a court date on Sept. 11, 2013 and was arrested 12 days later and held at the Brandon jail.
At that time, he was still pending on the sexual assault and uttering threats charges.
Badcock said Antoine’s girlfriend was initially
co-operative with the prosecution and indicated that she’d testify at trial. But she later produced a letter indicating that she wouldn’t be co-operative and had never told the Crown she would testify.
Police investigated and that led to the discovery of Antoine’s phone calls from jail.
Badcock didn’t specify for the court how Antoine managed to bypass the fact that the jail had him on a list that specified he wasn’t to contact his common-law partner. She just indicated there was some sort of ruse that involved Antoine referring to the woman by a false name.
However, Antoine was found out because inmates use a personal identification number to make phone calls from the jail and those calls are recorded. His PIN was used to call his girlfriend’s number 656 times between Sept. 25, 2013 and Nov. 8, 2013.
Badcock — who read parts of a transcript of the phone calls in court — said that during the calls, Antoine described the Crown attorneys office as corrupt, made it clear that he doesn’t want his girlfriend to attend court and told her he could help with her children if he was released.
In one conversation read by Badcock, the girlfriend tells Antoine she’ll be subpoenaed to testify at trial and will go to jail if she doesn’t show up. In response, Antoine — who has a lengthy criminal record — says the Crown attorney is just trying to scare her.
He calls her "babe," reassures her, tells her he loves her and says they’ll work things out.
At one point, she accuses him of trying to manipulate her. But ultimately, Antoine’s persistence prevails.
"So are you going to come to trial if I had to go through that?" Antoine asks in one conversation quoted by Badcock.
"No, I already told you I wasn’t," the woman responds.
"OK. Good. Well, I should be out by spring then, hopefully," Antoine says.
As of Monday, when Badcock dropped the counts of sexual assault and uttering threats charges, Antoine had been held in jail for seven months and 21 days.
But his plan to be out by spring failed.
He pleaded guilty to the obstructing justice charge, the two assaults against his girlfriend, failing to attend court and breaches of bail orders that included two counts of contacting his girlfriend when he wasn’t supposed to prior to going into custody.
Judge Shauna Hewitt-Michta sentenced him to a total of 17 months in jail (minus the time he’d spent in jail prior to sentencing), followed by 18 months probation.
Court was told that the relationship between Antoine and his girlfriend is over.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen