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Former Edmonton nightclub employee loses appeal of sex assault conviction

Matthew McKnight and his mother walk into court, in Edmonton on Friday, July 10, 2020. An appeal by a former Edmonton nightclub employee who was found guilty of sexually assaulting five women has been dismissed. CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — An appeal by a former Edmonton nightclub employee who was found guilty of sexually assaulting five women has been dismissed.

Matthew McKnight, who is in his mid-30s, was accused in 13 sexual assaults between 2010 and 2016, when he was an assistant manager and promoter working for the owner of several bars and nightclubs.

A jury found him guilty in five of the assaults in January 2020 and he was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

McKnight's lawyers filed the notice of appeal of his conviction in August 2020 that complained of "Crown counsel's conduct during cross-examination, including asking questions laced with sarcasm and inflammatory language."

It suggested that undermined his constitutional and statutory rights, and resulted in an unfair trial and miscarriage of justice.

The appeal also argued some evidence against McKnight was erroneously admitted.

A panel of three judges with the Court of Appeal heard the matter in June 2021 and released its decision dismissing both grounds of the appeal Monday.

In that decision, the judges say they are confident the jury was "well-equipped to make a common-sense assessment of whether the Crown proved sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt."

They add they are "not persuaded that the conduct of Crown counsel resulted in a miscarriage of justice."

The Crown has also appealed McKnight's sentence on the ground that it was "demonstrably unfit," which the document notes is still outstanding.

Prosecutors had asked for a total sentence of 22 1/2 years in prison, while McKnight's lawyer had recommended five to nine years.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma assessed 16 1/2 years — a number she reduced to eight years based on McKnight's "moral blameworthiness" and "excellent chances to rehabilitate." She also took into account that while waiting for bail, he was attacked by an inmate at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

The reduced sentence caused outbursts in the courtroom, with one woman yelling, "You guys are monsters."

Court had heard that McKnight met most of the women in bars and assaulted them at his apartment. Several victims told court that they have had nightmares, thoughts of suicide and anxiety since they were attacked.

The victims' names are protected by a publication ban.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

The Canadian Press

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