A file photo of Yellowknife's courthouse. James O'Connor/Cabin Radio
Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
Peter Charlie Tsetta took the stand Monday in Supreme Court to defend himself against charges he raped and forcibly confined two women on separate occasions in the spring of 2017.
Tsetta’s appearance formed a continuation of the 50-year-old Ndilo resident’s trial, which has had two adjournments since starting in May.
Under direct examination by defence lawyer Evan McIntyre, Tsetta denied sexually assaulting or forcibly confining either of the women – one an ex-girlfriend, the other a fellow “street drinker,” the court heard, in downtown Yellowknife.
Under a court order, both women are entitled to anonymity.
In the case of the first woman, Tsetta testified he bumped into his former girlfriend on the afternoon of May 14, 2017.
“I was downtown and saw her walking around, with street drinkers,” Tsetta testified. “We drank wine – Private Stock – and just hung around. We just walked around the streets.”
Tsetta was on a probation order that prohibited him from consuming alcohol at the time. However, he said he made sure to head home before his overnight curfew kicked in.
His ex-girlfriend accompanied him in a cab to have drinks at his small, one-bedroom house. They drank wine for a few hours, before the woman became enraged when she spotted a bag containing women’s clothing, Tsetta said.
Tsetta recalled telling the woman – who was seeing another man at the time – the clothing belonged to his sister, who sometimes slept over on the couch.
However, she became so angry, Tsetta said, he told her to leave and escorted her outside by the shoulders. He said she left after kicking the door. He then went to bed, he said.
The woman in question died last December. Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau ruled on Monday that her testimony from Tsetta’s preliminary hearing, in 2018, could be admitted.
Tsetta testified he met the second woman – a casual drinking friend – on the evening of June 17, 2017.
“I ran into her downtown around 6pm … she was looking for a drink,” he said, noting she agreed to go to his house.
After a while, “she said she was tired,” Tsetta told the court. “She laid on her side and said she was going to have a rest. He eyes were closed and I went into my room.”
Some time later, Tsetta said, he heard the woman calling to him from the living room, looking for more alcohol or cigarettes. As he didn’t have any, he declined her invitation to return downtown – noting he was on a curfew – and she left.
It was at this point that the woman, who was in the public gallery after being called to testify again for a brief time Monday morning, stood up and walked out of the courtroom.
“Did you lock her in your house?” asked Tsetta’s lawyer. “No,” Tsetta replied.
“Did you force her to have … sex?”
Vastly different accounts
Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Annie Piche, Tsetta said he understood a woman can’t consent to having sex if she is very drunk, sleeping or unconscious.
“And she [the second woman] never stepped even a toe in your bedroom?” Piche asked.
“She didn’t come in my bedroom at all,” Tsetta replied, stating he thought they left each other on good terms that night.
Both women’s testimony details vastly different accounts of how their evenings with Tsetta had ended.
Both said they fell asleep after drinking, only to wake up while being raped by Tsetta in his bed.
They both described finding different ways to escape, each having first been made by Tsetta to promise they would not tell police what had happened.
The court heard Tsetta has a criminal record stretching back to 1987.
The second woman testified the group of street friends had heard Tsetta had done prison time for savagely beating and raping his former girlfriend some time ago – the same woman he is now charged with sexually assaulting and forcibly confining.
Closing arguments are set to start Wednesday at 10:30am.