Const. Jason Tress leaves Red Deer provincial court on Friday after being found not guilty of sexual assault and breach of trust. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

Trial for Red Deer Mountie charged with sex assault and breach of trust ends

Judge to deliver his decision on Sept. 24

A Red Deer RCMP officer accused of sexual assault and breach of trust tried to cover up his crimes, and his alleged victim should be believed, said a Crown prosecutor.

The three-day trial wrapped up Wednesday for Const. Jason Tress, who was charged with sexual assault while carrying a weapon and breach of trust in connection to a May 1, 2016 incident.

It is alleged that while responding to a domestic dispute at a Red Deer apartment early that morning, Tress took a woman into a bedroom and closed the door to talk to her.

While there, he is accused of asking if her breasts were natural and commenting that she had a “nice body.”

In her closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou said the alleged victim’s recollection of that night should be believed.

“On central points that stunned her, shocked her, she is clear,” said Papadatou.

Tress took the 19-year-old woman aside in a bedroom with the door closed to interview her about the domestic disturbance, but the conversation soon turned personal, and criminal, she told Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Gates.

“It is inappropriate for a police officer to engage in a sexually charged conversation with a woman in a room with the door closed when he’s there to investigate a domestic disturbance,” Papadatou said.

The Crown prosecutor said that Tress asked the woman twice if she wanted to leave — she said yes each time — before moving away from the door to let her by.

That behaviour amounts to a breach of trust, she argued.

“It was not for the public good. It was corrupt. It was aggressive and it was dishonest.”

Papadatou also pointed out that a constable working with Tress that night was uncomfortable with how long Tress spent in the bedroom with the woman.

Papadatou said Tress, who was in uniform and carrying his gun, was guilty of sexual assault while carrying a weapon by impeding the woman from leaving the room.

Tress had no notes of the evening, his name did not appear on an occurrence report, and he was furious when the rookie officer he was training that night raised questions about how the incident was handled.

Charges were also dropped against a man who had attacked two women, including Tress’s alleged victim.

“(Tress) wanted to bury this thing and bury it quickly,” said Papadatou.

Defence lawyer Robb Beeman argued the alleged victim had been drinking heavily all evening and her reliability is suspect.

The alleged victim changed her story when pressed about how much she drank that night, admitting to sharing two or three bottles of wine and drinking seven to 10 drinks, including vodkas and waters from about 9 p.m. to the bar’s last call around 1 a.m.

Alcohol affects how people remember events, and “more importantly, it impacts how you perceive events,” said Beeman.

He pointed out she testified that he said “Are your breasts real?” but later testified he asked, “Are your breasts real or fake?

“It’s changing,” he said.

She also appeared to change the amount of time she had to wait to leave the room, going from 15 seconds, to saying it felt like 20 to 40 seconds.

“It’s a moving target in terms of what happened in that room.”

Tress denied on the stand that he said anything about her breasts or body. What conversation he did have with her — a friend testified the woman told her Tress flirted with her — does not cross the threshold to becoming a criminal breach of trust, Beeman argued.

Overall, Tress’s testimony was reliable and credible and should be believed, he said.

The judge said he will deliver his verdict on Sept. 24. Gates called it a “very difficult case” with “very tricky factual issues.”

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