POLITICS

Two doctors accused of drugging, sexually assaulting woman found not guilty

09/25/2014 11:57 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Two Toronto-area doctors said they looked forward to moving on with their lives after being found not guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a medical student in 2011.

The woman at the centre of the case, however, was disappointed at the ruling saying she was "denied justice" while "sexual predators" remained at large.

Dr. Amitabh Chauhan and Dr. Suganthan Kayilasanathan were accused of drugging and then sexually assaulting the then 23-year-old woman in a hotel room after a night of drinking and dancing at a Toronto club.

Justice Julie Thorburn said while it was agreed that the two doctors had a "sexual encounter" with the woman, she was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman was drugged and did not consent to the encounter.

"I know this has been a long and emotional journey for all of you," Thorburn said as she delivered her lengthy judgement. "I do recognize how difficult this may be for some of you in this room."

The complainant, who cannot be identified, issued a statement that was read out by a detective who worked on the case.

"I had nothing to gain, I was denied justice today. Sexual predators are out there and need to be stopped," she said.

Crown lawyer Cara Sweeny added that the woman hoped the case would not discourage victims of sexual assaults from coming forward.

"She wanted to hold people accountable for what happened to her," Sweeny said.

"If anything comes out of this case it's that women need to look after themselves and be aware of these offences," she said."Eventually if more and more women come forward then the overwhelming tide of awareness will change the way that judges see this kind of offence."

The court heard that the medical student was introduced to Chauhan through a mutual friend because he was a resident in plastic surgery and she was interested in pursuing work in the field.

After meeting a few times and exchanging several emails — which Thorburn said had a "jocular and social tenor" — the trial heard that the woman planned to meet Chauhan for drinks late on the night of Feb. 12 and learned an hour before they met that his friend, Kayilasanathan, would be joining them.

The three of them had a few drinks at a hotel bar, then a few more at Kayilasanathan's hotel room before going to a Toronto club, where surveillance video showed them "drinking alcohol, socializing and dancing," court heard.

The woman claimed that shortly after having a drink at the club, she became unable to see and had "intermittent visual and auditory flashes." The trio then returned to the hotel where the woman claimed she was unable to move, enabling both doctors to allegedly sexually assault her.

Thorburn noted that video from the bar did not appear to show either of the accused placing anything into the drinks and that video surveillance from the hotel parking lot and lobby appeared to show the woman having no difficulty walking or controlling her physical movements.

She said the woman and the two doctors "willingly consumed a considerable amount of alcohol that evening and early the next morning" and that there was no evidence to corroborate the woman's testimony that she was drugged or sexually assaulted.

Further, Thorburn said that four text messages were sent from the woman's cellphone around the time she testified she was unable to resist the alleged sexual encounter. She said police were unable to retrieve the content of those messages.

Even if the woman did not or could not consent to a sexual encounter due to her condition, the two doctors could have thought she did, Thorburn said.

"There is an air of reality to the accused's claim that they had an honest but mistaken belief that (the woman) consented to the sexual encounter," Thorburn said. "The toxicologist testified that although consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a short period could result in an alcoholic blackout, a third party might not be aware that an individual in such a condition was not in full command of her faculties."

Chauhan, who was married at the time of the incident, and Kayilasanathan, who had a girlfriend, claimed they had an "unplanned but consensual sexual encounter" which followed a night of drinking and partying.

The woman claimed Chauhan engaged in vaginal and anal sex with her, which he denied, and that Kayilasanathan sexually touched her.

Chauhan had also been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting another woman in 2003 whom he had a relationship with years earlier.

He was found not guilty on those charges as well.

Both doctors told reporters outside court that they were happy with the outcome of the trial.

"It's been a difficult process, of course, and it's been a very long process and that's why I'm looking forward to moving on and putting this behind me," said Chauhan.

"I'm very gratified with the result and grateful for her honour's careful consideration of all the issues," added Kayilasanathan.