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Woman attacked by serial rapist outraged by his appeal hearing

Boalag
Boalag

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Tara Bradbury

The Telegram

[email protected]

@tara_bradbury

Eight years after she was viciously attacked by serial rapist Sofyan Boalag, one woman says she has been successful - as successful as possible, perhaps - with putting it behind her.

It hasn't come easy and has taken years of work, she says, but she is finally at the point where Boalag's heinous assault on her isn't on her mind every day.

Still, she likens the trauma to a boomerang that comes back to smack her in the face when she might not expect it, again and again.

Thursday was one of those times.

Having been informed by Victim Services staff that Boalag's appeal would be heard on Wednesday, the woman was thinking she might attend, but had gotten tied up with a work project. She learned the details of the proceedings by reading the news Thursday, and says she was shocked by what she learned.

Boalag's arguments, as presented by his defence lawyer, Jon Noonan, were the boomerang she wasn't ready to catch.

“Unbelievable. Outrageous. I'm glad I wasn't there, in the end,” she says, explaining she doesn't know if she would have been able to hold herself back from standing up and reacting in the courtroom. "This is another way to get the victims."

The woman was one of three females Boalag was convicted of attacking and sexually assaulted within a three-month period in the fall of 2012.

She crossed paths with him several times one night, first outside a bar on George Street and again near the Supreme Court building while walking home. The next time she saw him was near St. Bonaventure's school, when he confronted her, held a knife to her throat and forced her to remove her clothes. After he sexually assaulted her, Boalag took the woman's purse and her phone and fled.

The woman went to RNC headquarters and reported the attack, and later picked Boalag out of a photo lineup, making him a suspect in a series of sexual assaults in the downtown area. When he was arrested, he was carrying the woman's phone, which still held pictures of her.

"He had my name, my address, everything. I was scared. I am scared," the woman told The Telegram.

Boalag also attacked a 15-year-old girl while she was walking her dog, choking her, sexually assaulting her and threatening to kill her while armed with a stick.

In a third attack, he chatted with a woman before leading her to a secluded area by a downtown church, sexually assaulting her at knifepoint and choking her until she passed out. When she regained consciousness, she located a police car and told the officer what had happened.

Boalag was convicted in 2016. The following year he was deemed by a provincial court judge to be a dangerous offender and was sent to Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., to serve an indeterminate jail sentence.

Dangerous offender designation in Canada is reserved for sexual predators and otherwise violent criminals, when the Crown is able to prove a high risk of the offender committing other serious offences in the future. The designation comes with an automatic indefinite jail sentence with no chance of parole for seven years.

Boalag is appealing his dangerous offender status and suggesting a jail term of between 10 and 12 years instead.

Noonan argued before a panel of three Court of Appeal judges Wednesday that his client's crimes were terrible, but there's no evidence to suggest he belongs on the dangerous offender list.

“I would suggest that these offences, while horrific, are fairly minor on the scale of dangerous offender predicate offences,” Noonan told the justices, comparing the case to previous unrelated sexual assault convictions. “These are horrific offences, however dangerous offender (status) is the most severe designation in Canada, and it’s reserved for the worst of the worst.”

The woman says there's nothing minor about what Boalag did to her, on any scale and in any comparison.

"I don't even know how he can use that word," she says of Noonan. "I thought I was going to die. It wasn't minor. It was a sexual assault with a weapon."

Noonan submitted that Boalag’s dangerous offender status should be overturned and a new hearing ordered for him, on the grounds that the original judge had misperceived evidence presented by witnesses, particularly forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jasbir Gill.

Gill had presented evidence in person in the courtroom as well as through a written report compiled after she conducted a lengthy assessment of Boalag at the Waterford Hospital while he was in custody.

In deeming Boalag a dangerous offender, the original judge had relied mostly on Gill’s written report, which differed from her testimony on the stand, Noonan said.

He noted Gill had told the court she believed Boalag’s risk to the community could eventually be managed with the right resources.

The trial judge ruled there was no evidence to suggest Boalag could be rehabilitated within a definite period of time, no indication he would participate willingly in treatment and no expression of his remorse. In delivering her decision, she pointed out Boalag had told Gill he would participate in sex offender counselling “because they will make me.”

Noonan, who did not represent Boalag at trial or at the dangerous offender hearing, argued the original judge chose to accept the parts of Gill’s report that were unfavourable to Boalag and disregarded her testimony, which he said was more valuable.

Gill said she believed Boalag met the criteria for a long-term offender – which would see him abide by strict conditions for a period of 10 years – but not the criteria for a dangerous offender, Noonan pointed out.

Prosecutor Dana Sullivan urged the appeal judges not to overturn Boalag's dangerous offender status, pointing to the seriousness of his crimes, which she said formed a pattern of aggressive behaviour.

She argued the sentencing judge had not made any mistake in determining Boalag was a dangerous offender given the evidence presented and noted the judge had determined Boalag met all four dangerous offender criteria, though only one would have sufficed for the designation.

Gill’s opinion that Boalag might eventually be treated if he meaningfully participated in programming was guarded and without a necessary timeline, Sullivan said, and the treatment plan was contingent on a long list of resources.

“Dr. Gill’s report lists those conditions as needed for perpetuity. That means forever,” Sullivan said. “Here we have an offender who has been designated dangerous, who denies sexual deviancy, who will participate in treatment because they’ll make him, who was callous towards his victims, who has shown no remorse or empathy.

“It’s our position that the treatment plan put forward was nothing more than an expression of hope, since there is no evidence he would comply and no evidence the conditions could be implemented.”

Going to the police and helping them catch Boalag is something the woman says has given her a sense of comfort over the past eight years. She's fearful at the thought of him being released from prison and says she is concerned that he doesn't see how he warrants a dangerous offender designation.

Having "done everything that needed to be done" to move on from the trauma of Boalag's crimes and ensuring he doesn't take away her sense of freedom, the woman says she's now dealing with the shock of his lawyer's arguments.

"If you've been a victim of sexual assault, you can't change it," she says. "Disrespectful is the word for his quotes. If I was a more fragile person, I'd be feeling the guilt and shame all over again."

Twitter: @Tara Bradbury

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