HALIFAX - A man wrongfully convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 14-year-old Nova Scotia girl in 1969 testified Monday that at the time he was charged he never gave a statement to the RCMP and did not plead guilty to the crime, even though that's what the record shows.
Gerald Barton, who now lives in Edmonton, is suing the Nova Scotia Crown for malicious prosecution and the RCMP in Digby, N.S., for negligent investigation.
"If they compensate me, then that's fine," he told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. "If not, then shame on them."
In January 2011, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal admitted fresh DNA evidence that proved Barton was not the father of the child born to the original complainant, who has since died.
The court quashed the conviction and entered an acquittal, saying Barton was the victim of a miscarriage of justice when he was 19 years old.
Barton said Monday that he couldn't have made a statement attributed to him by the RCMP in 1969 because he didn't know the meaning of some of the sexually explicit words used to describe the crime in Jordantown, N.S.
"By the way she acted, I thought I could get her into bed," the statement says in part. "While I was in the house with her, I had intercourse with her."
Barton testified he never uttered those words or the more detailed descriptions of the sexual act, which included the words orgasm, ejaculation and vagina.
"It's not a statement that I gave," he said.
Barton, who is black, also said he believes racism was at play.
"Back then, they treated all blacks unfairly," he testified, referring to the RCMP.
He also told the court that he recalled how the girl's father had approached his father and demanded $900 to prevent him from going to the police. Barton said his father refused, adding that he didn't have that kind of money anyway.
"(The girl's father) said I had sexually assaulted his daughter," Barton testified, adding that he never touched the girl and knew her only as an acquaintance.
The court also heard that Barton had no criminal record at the time and has not been in trouble with the law since.
Court documents say Barton, now 64, spent a few hours in jail and was sentenced to a year of probation after being convicted in January 1970 of having sexual intercourse with a female between 14 and 16 years of age.
Those documents also say it wasn't until 2008 that his accuser admitted to the RCMP that her brother had repeatedly sexually assaulted her in the late 1960s, which led to DNA testing proving he was the father of her child.
Court documents say the woman told police that her father was not willing to accept that her brother got her pregnant.
Barton told the court that having lived with a criminal conviction as a sex offender for more than 40 years, he has been turned down for jobs, struggled with relationships and has long suffered mental anguish.
"I never had anybody who actually listened," he said.
"I've got this constantly in my head. It's had a lot of effect on my relationships with people. ... It's something that's been eating away at me for the past 40 years."
When federal lawyer Jessica Harris asked Barton why he didn't seek a pardon or file a lawsuit earlier to clear his name, he said he simply didn't have the money.
Darlene Willcott, a lawyer representing the attorney general of Nova Scotia, suggested there were inconsistencies in Barton's testimony and that his memory was fragmented.
She also referred to court documents that said Barton had pleaded guilty to the charge against him. But Barton said again and again that the records were wrong, at one point suggesting that someone had pleaded guilty on his behalf.
"I didn't plead anything," he said.
Barton described himself as a loner with a Grade 9 education who has struggled to make ends meet working in construction. He's been married three times and has lived in Alberta since the 1980s.
Defence lawyer Dale Dunlop said Monday he wanted to amend Barton's statement of claim to say that the case should focus on whether Barton's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated.
Judge J. James Chipman accepted Dunlop's amendment, dismissing objections from lawyers representing the federal attorney general and the provincial attorney general.
Note to readers: This story clarifies the charge Barton was convicted on. An earlier story did not specify the charge.