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'She said she was 16' – Whatì man charged with rape of girl

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Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.

Taking the stand in his own defence, a Whatì man repeatedly told a jury he believed he was having sex with a 16-year-old girl – not the 13-year-old he is accused of raping.

Still, Cory Ross Nitsiza, who was 27 when he took the girl up to his bedroom in August 2016, said on Wednesday he stopped having intercourse because he felt “creepy” over her young age.

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“I was 27 … I felt like a creep,” Nitsiza said on the second full day of his jury trial in NWT Supreme Court. “She is around my brother’s age.”

Court heard his brother was 16 or 17 at the time.

“I was thinking, like, I was 11 years older than her. I felt like a creep. It didn’t feel right,” he said.

Under questioning by defence lawyer Jay Bran, Nitsiza contradicted the girl’s testimony from Tuesday, when she had said he grabbed her by the wrist to take her upstairs to his room.

“At any point, when you were with [the girl], did you ever do anything she didn’t want to do?” asked Bran.

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“No,” said Nitsiza.

“What age did you believe she was?”

“She said she was 16.”

Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Trevor Johnson, Nitsiza was shown transcripts from two previous jury trials Nitsiza has faced in Yellowknife in 2018 on the same charge of sexual assault.

Cory Ross Nitsiza outside Yellowknife Courthouse during a break Wednesday in his jury trial on one count of sexual assault

Cory Ross Nitsiza outside Yellowknife Courthouse during a break Wednesday in his jury trial on one count of sexual assault. James O'Connor/Cabin Radio

Johnson pressed Nitsiza – a father of three – on how hard he had tried to determine the girl’s age, noting he had grown up with the girl in a small community of 400 and had even helped babysit her at one point.

“Who else was there when you asked her age [that morning]?” questioned Johnson.

“Just her,” replied Nitsiza, who became somewhat exasperated at times on the stand.

“You were familiar with her from seeing her in assemblies at [the combined grades] school and around the community?”

“Yes.”

Johnson also asked Nitsiza why he initially lied to police about having sex with the girl upon his arrest in September 2016.

“Why did you lie to them if you did nothing wrong?” Johnson asked.

“I told them in the end,” Nitsiza replied.

Final submissions

On Tuesday, the girl described having “non-consensual sex” with Nitsiza during a night of alcohol and cannabis use in Whatì. 

Under Canadian law, the age of consent is 16. The girl is entitled to anonymity.

The girl said she had been “walking around” the community at about 4am on August 24, 2016, when she and a 15-year old female friend passed by Nitsiza’s house. 

The girl testified Nitsiza grabbed her by the wrist and took her upstairs, where he raped her.

When she later went for a medical exam and mentioned the incident, health officials contacted police.

The arresting officer testified earlier on Wednesday. A friend of the victim, who was with her at Nitsiza’s house, testified Tuesday afternoon.

The trial continues on Friday, when the Crown and defence lawyers will make their final submissions and Justice Andrew Mahar will charge the jury.