REGINA — An HIV-positive Regina man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for choking a woman until she was unconscious and then sexually assaulting her.
Kenton Desjarlais, who is 26, had earlier pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault. He will also get 334 days credit for time spent in jail before he was sentenced.
But prosecutor Chris White had wanted a 12-year sentence “because it was a brutal offence.”
“It was committed against an unsuspecting, innocent stranger minding her own business. That victim could have been anyone,” White said Monday after the sentence was delivered in court.
“It’s the sort of offence that hits really close to home, no matter who you are frankly or where you live. Not to mention the fact that there were those aggravating factors vis-a-vis the HIV, the choking and the fact that he has a significant record. These are all things that I think pushed it towards 12.”
Court was told the woman walking home from a pub in downtown Regina in May 2015 when Desjarlais approached her on a bicycle.
Justice Brian Barrington-Foote said in his sentencing decision that the woman “nicely, and then bluntly” rejected Desjarlais’ verbal advances. She pushed Desjarlais away when he touched her bottom, but Desjarlais would not be deterred.
Court heard the woman fought back when he dragged her to the ground, scratching at his face.
He put his hands around her neck and choked her until she lost consciousness, then pulled down her pants.
The assault was initially considered to have been aggravated because Desjarlais is HIV positive. But that was changed after an expert gave evidence at a preliminary hearing that levels of the virus were so low there was a minimal chance of transmission.
The choking became the aggravating factor.
The defence suggested a sentence of between five and 12 years.
In making a sentencing decision, Barrington-Foote acknowledged that Desjarlais had a difficult childhood which included abuse and drug use.
“It was his mother who introduced him to a criminal lifestyle,” said Barrington-Foote. “She stole to support her drug habit, and recruited him as a helper.”
At the time of the attack, Desjarlais was under the influence of cocaine, morphine, crystal meth and alcohol.
However, the judge also noted that Desjarlais has been convicted of 60 previous offences, including assault.
Desjarlais was also assessed as having a high risk to reoffend generally and sexually.
Barrington-Foote said in his sentencing decision that the woman “gave an eloquent and powerful victim impact statement.” She described the psychological and emotional impact of an attack that has changed her life to the point where she finds it hard to leave her home.
“She painted a vivid picture of what was, for her, an incomprehensible event,” said Barrington-Foote.
The woman had to take powerful drug cocktails and spent months not knowing whether she was infected with HIV. She tested negative.
Despite her fears, Barrington-Foote said the woman wanted her story to be heard and is comforted by the fact that she may have saved another woman by speaking out.
“We owe her a debt of gratitude for stepping forward, then and now, to report and help us better understand the impact of this despicable crime,” he said.
“I am hopeful that the fact that justice will be done — difficult though the process must have been — will not only help others, but will help her find peace.”