Mind-boggling sexual assault trial is fraught with gender issues: DiManno

This story originally published here.

My first thought, upon entering the courtroom: Where’s the accused?

Not in the dock, not at the defense table.

And then it dawned on me. Oh, that’s him. Or her. Sitting alongside his legal counsel. Or her legal counsel.

I’m not playing disingenuous gender games here. Transgendered sexual identity is no longer a matter for tittering, if ever it was. It’s just that the defendant in court Friday looked not at all like the individual in the police handout photo, which was my reference point. Meaning, he — presenting as female — appears far older than 52 years of age, all wrinkly, with face collapsing inwards, nose curving down towards his protruding lower bite, and a thin grey bob of hair.

I would never have identified him in a police lineup.

To be clear: The accused self-identifies as female and prefers to be known as “Tara,” the name of his former wife, but is formally called Patrick Pearsall in court documents.

As Crown attorney Jonathan Smith noted in his opening address to the jury earlier in the week, the alleged victims knew him as “Pat” or Patrick, and thus will refer to him by those names. “It is by no means an issue of disrespect for the defendant’s wishes to be referred to as Tara.”

That’s the no-offense-intended preamble.

The offenses at issue are two counts of sexual assault.

By a man against two women.

At least at the time of the alleged assaults outwardly presenting as a man married to a woman.

It gets confusing because — as per her preference — the appropriate pronouns for purpose of this account are a muddle.

Also presenting, as one alleged victim testified, as a paramedic to one accuser and as a doctor to another.

It can be firmly stated that he was never either.

But those were the professional roles he allegedly assumed to convince the women they should allow him to perform vaginal examinations on them.

Those were the alleged sexual assaults, to which Pearsall has pleaded not guilty.

One accuser, first to take the stand, was a 21-year-old homeless woman when she met Pearsall and his wife Tara Jean Tracey in the spring of 2008.

At the time, she’d been drifting among homeless shelters, coping with drug use and was pregnant by an abusive boyfriend, although she didn’t know her condition when she accepted an offer from the couple to move into their Toronto Community Housing apartment, paying modest rent for a room.

In fact, she scarcely knew the couple, having met Tracey on social media.

Within a few weeks of moving into the unit, the witness — a publication ban prevents identifying either of the alleged victims — began to experience vaginal bleeding.

At this point in her life, the young woman had never had a miscarriage (but had undergone seven abortions) and didn’t understand what was happening.

It was Tracey, she testified, who urged that she allow Pearsall, the “paramedic” to take a look down under.

The woman agreed and pulled down her pants, lowering herself onto a futon. The “examination” lasted 10 minutes, with Pearsall allegedly penetrating her digitally.

“I was young. I was naïve, and his so-called wife was encouraging it,” Witness A said under cross-examination yesterday. “He gave me two choices: go to the hospital or he could, quote, f__k the baby back inside me.”

That’s right.

Either get herself to emergency, where the ailing fetus would be extracted, or have sex with him because that would halt the miscarriage.

But Witness A wasn’t quite that naïve.

“I know you can’t f__k a baby back into a person.”

She drew up her trousers and got out of there lickety-split, never went to police.

Two years later, she told the court, she heard from Tracey that Pearsall had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old pregnant girl in Halifax after befriending that homeless teenager and her boyfriend.

In that case, Pearsall had claimed to be a doctor, warning the girl she might be having a miscarriage, a problem that could be fixed by having sex with him.

At trial, Smith said in his opening address, Pearsall admitted these facts and others before being convicted of sexual assault obtained by fraud.

On the stand yesterday, Witness A admitted she’d seen a story online about Pearsall being convicted as a sexual offender. But she denied seeking out any further reported details, such as Pearsall telling the Halifax teenager he could “fix her” by injecting fluid into her vagina.

The story now jumps forward to 2015 to another teen, age 17, who’d never met or heard of the Witness A.

This girl was in the care of the Children’s Aid society, living in a group home, her boyfriend in a foster home. She, too, was all screwed up — drugs, self-harming by cutting herself repeatedly on the legs and torso, suicidal thoughts.

That spring, Witness B discovered she was pregnant. Fearful of being removed from the group home and having her baby taken away, she fled.

This young woman has yet to testify. But the court was told in the Crown’s opening address that, upon running away, she encountered Pearsall and another woman at a Tim Horton’s in Scarborough. After bumming a cigarette, the teenager told the couple she was pregnant and had been kicked out of her group home, actually a small lie, and had no place to go.

They’d known each other for five minutes before, as court was told, the couple invited the teen to stay with them at a motel where they were residing.

Accompanying them to the hotel, Witness B realized there was only one bed.

She offered to sleep on the floor.

But the couple insisted that, because she was pregnant, she should sleep between them in the bed.

As Smith said in his opening address, the couple asked for no money, paid for the teenager’s food, took her shopping for clothes. Pearsall told her about the various jobs he’d held, including being a “doctor in the war and helping pregnant women.’’

Pearsall allegedly insisted that the teenager needed to see a doctor about her pregnancy, but the girl was afraid that, because of her age, medical authorities would report her to the CAS and the baby would be taken away after it was born.

If she didn’t go see a doctor, Pearsall allegedly insisted, he would kick her out of the motel. Or . . . he could conduct the vaginal exam for her.

Reluctantly, the teen agreed.

The exam was performed without gloves. In the three days that she afterwards remained at the motel room, Pearsall allegedly made sexual comments to her and touched her inappropriately. Feeling violated, she left, having no communication with the couple until two months later, when Pearsall allegedly offered to pay for a party she, the teenager, wanted to throw, offering to pay for whatever was needed if she would have sex with him.

She refused.

Like the other complainant, the teen never reported the incident to police until they showed up at her group home. That’s when she discovered they were investigating Pearsall and her story came out.

A man, now presenting as a woman, alleged to have sexually assaulted two young women.

The trial continues.

This story originally published here.

Leave a Comment