(Black Press File Photo)

B.C. advocate against sexual violence files for mistrial after sex assault conviction

Founder of Fortress Foundation found guilty of 2017 sexual assault

Defence lawyers for a Saanich man found guilty of breaking into the home of a woman and sexually assaulting filed for a mistrial Friday – less than 24 hours prior to his sentencing hearing.

Joel James Conway was scheduled to appear in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria Friday morning, but the hearing was adjourned.

Conway, surrounded by friends and family, was in a notably positive mood following the adjournment, hugging and laughing outside the courtroom.

The courts will proceed at 11:30 a.m. to determine the next steps to move forward.

Conway had founded the now-dissolved Fortress Foundation, a Victoria-based non-profit organization that, in its mission statement, says it is “focused on eliminating gender-based violence and preventing sexually exploitative behaviour through education, empowerment and engagement of men to become equipped to end exploitation.” 

Conway, self-identified as a former porn-addict, told Black Press Media in May 2016 that he decided to get help for his addiction after finding himself unable to listen to a female motivational speaker at a conference.

“I realized there was something there that just wasn’t right and a lot of it was deeply-seated in my connection with porn and the ideology that women are less than,” he said at the time.

Conway was convicted of sexual assault by Supreme Court Justice Frtiz Verhoeven on March 26.

The judgment details how, after a conference in Vancouver in March 2017, Conway told his wife he would be taking the 7 a.m. ferry back to Victoria, but instead took the 9 p.m. ferry on March 30 so he could spend the night out partying with a friend, referred to as ‘Mr. S’ in the court judgment.

READ ALSO: Saanich man convicted of sexual assault once behind non-profit fighting ‘sexually exploitative behaviour’

After a night of drinking, he and the friend crossed paths with A.B. – who was already acquainted with Mr. S, and all three decided to share a taxi in the direction of A.B.’s home.

Once at A.B.’s home, they consumed vodka and cocaine before Conway and Mr.S. left in a taxi in the early hours of the morning.

Court documents detail how A.B. then double-checked her door was locked – also latching it with a chain door latch – before going up to her bedroom and falling asleep or “passing out.”

She said she awoke to find Conway naked in her room before he proceeded to rape her.

The judgment does not illustrate how Conway re-entered the home, as the door was latched, but Crown counsel suggested that he used the balcony to gain access.

READ ALSO: Woman gets two years’ probation after having sex with 13-year-old boy

Conway said that as he and Mr. S had left in the taxi, he had told his friend he wanted to return to A.B.’s home because he “thought he had a chance” with her. His friend discouraged him from doing so, but Conway said he had given her his phone number to which he alleges she texted him, “Hey, hurry back.”

Conway said that A.B. let him in through the front door and the encounter that followed was consensual – although the door, which has an automatic lock and recording system – did not make record of the door being opened from the inside.

In his judgment, Verhoeven rejected the notion that A.B. wanted Conway to return, saying she was “exhausted and intoxicated, and wanted to go to bed.”

Later, Verhoeven stated that “there is no evidence that A.B. invited him to return, or that she allowed him into her residence, or that tends to suggest that she consented to sexual activity.”

With files from Nina Grossman



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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