Red Deer police officer found not guilty of sexual assault

Judge also clears officer of breach of trust accusation

A Red Deer RCMP officer has been cleared of breach of trust and sexually assaulting a teen in custody at the detachment on Canada Day 2016.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Grant Dunlop said he believed Const. Jason Tress and not his accuser, Melissa Heinrichs.

Heinrichs said Tress took her into a fingerprint room and coerced her into showing him her breasts while she was a prisoner.

Tress denied the allegations, saying he only took Heinrichs into the room to talk about her future and build a rapport to help in a stolen gun investigation.

“I believe Const. Tress,” said Dunlop Friday. “Where their evidence differs, I don’t believe Miss Heinrichs.”

The judge pointed out on the day of the alleged offences, Heinrichs was a 19-year-old drug addict going through withdrawal.

During the trial that began Monday, Heinrichs admitted an accusation she made at a preliminary hearing in October 2018 — that Tress had grabbed her buttocks and genitals in the fingerprint room — was false.

Dunlop said that “seriously undermines her credibility.”

Given her physical and emotional condition, Dunlop said he had “serious doubts” about her ability to correctly recall what happened that day.

In closing arguments, defence lawyer Robb Beeman said his client should be acquitted on both charges.

“There is no evidence of assault, let alone sexual assault,” Beeman told the judge.

Beeman said a criminal trial is not a “credibility contest” between an accused and accuser, and the judge must weigh all the evidence presented.

Some of the weakest evidence was the testimony of Tress’s accuser, who had been a drug addict since she was 16, he suggested.

“My heart goes out to her as a person,” he said. “She represents every parent’s nightmare.

“That being said, she is a dangerous witness.”

Beeman said Heinrichs was a “self-admitted liar. She admitted to lying on matters that go to the very heart of this case.”

Heinrichs could offer no explanation why she made up the story about Tress grabbing her in the fingerprint room.

She also testified that she was wearing a crop top and short-shorts when she was arrested by Tress.

Heinrichs’ intent was to convey that she was dressed provocatively and that Tress was “some kind of predator,” said Beeman.

“We can see with our own eyes that evidence was not true,” he said, referring to video from the detachment that clearly showed she was wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

The circumstances surrounding the alleged assault also do not add up, said Beeman.

There was no evidence that Tress warned Heinrichs not to say anything after he supposedly ordered her to lift her shirt and show him her breasts.

After the alleged incident, Tress took Heinrichs to a phone room so she could call a lawyer, friend or family.

“What is to prevent her from immediately exposing his conduct to friends, family, to 911?”

Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou said Tress’s explanation of his decision to take Heinrichs into a fingerprint room where there was no video and audio monitoring to talk to her should be viewed with suspicion.

After the first meeting, she came out crying, and may have been after the second as well.

There was a “lack of transparency” in his behaviour around Heinrichs.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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