Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
A jury found Cory Ross Nitsiza guilty of one count of sexual assault late Friday after deliberating all afternoon.
It was the third time the Crown had tried Nitsiza, now 29. The previous proceedings, in 2018, ended in mistrials when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.
The four-woman, eight-man jury began deliberating at noon on Friday after hearing evidence for two days, followed by final submissions from defence and Crown lawyers.
The trial centred on what happened when Nitsiza had sex with a 13-year-old girl at his Whatì residence three years ago.
At issue for the jury was whether Nitsiza knew the girl was younger than 16 – the legal age of consent in Canada – or, if not, whether he did enough to ascertain her real age.
Both the accused and the victim admitted, under cross-examination, they had lied about aspects of the case at various times.
At the trial’s start, the girl – who is entitled to anonymity – described being led upstairs by Nitsiza to his bedroom.
“He just told me not to tell anyone,” she said. “That’s when he raped me.”
She said the attack lasted about four minutes, during which she asked him to stop five times, being more forceful with each demand.
Nitsiza took the stand in his own defence on Wednesday, repeatedly stating he believed he was having sex with a 16-year-old girl who had shown up at his back door with a friend in the early morning of August 24, 2016.
He testified he asked the girl her age – she said she was 16, he alleged – and other questions to help him make up his mind.
He also testified he stopped having intercourse because he felt uneasy over her young age.
“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.
In his final submission on Friday, defence lawyer Jan Bran told the jury “being creepy in Canada is not a crime.”
Bran suggested certain activities can be immoral, but that doesn’t mean they are illegal.
Bran repeatedly noted the girl had lied to authorities and during a trial, asking: “So why wouldn’t she have lied to my client [about her age]?”
Crown prosecutor Trevor Johnson told the jury Nitsiza’s version of events was “implausible,” as he must have known the girl was younger than 16. Their paths had crossed before in the small community of 400, the court had heard.
“A girl who he doesn’t know arrives at his house and, within a few minutes, agrees to have sex with him?” Johnson asked. “You should convict him because he did not take reasonable steps to ascertain [her] age.
“He thought she might be lying to him about her age but, despite what he knew, he thought it was all right to go upstairs and have sex with her.
“He didn’t do more because he wanted to have sex with her.”
On Tuesday, Bran told Cabin Radio his client was “upset” upon hearing the verdict at 5:30pm on Friday.
Bran said the jury reached its decision “quickly” after hearing Nitsiza’s testimony read back to them.
Nitsiza remains free on bail until his sentencing date before Justice Andrew Mahar on June 17.
Nitsiza returned to territorial court on Tuesday morning to set dates to answer unrelated charges, including obstructing a police officer, break and enter, and several breaches of court orders.