Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Cassandra Desmond acquitted of six charges

Judge not satisfied of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

  • March 6 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ANTIGONISH — Thirty-two-year-old Cassandra Desmond of Antigonish, formerly of Lincolnville, has been acquitted of six charges stemming from a fight at Dooly’s billiard room in downtown Antigonish two years ago.

In his written decision on Feb. 29, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Frank Hoskins said that he was “not satisfied” that Desmond committed the offences in the indictment based on the “totality” of the evidence. “Therefore ... I find Ms. Desmond not guilty.”

Desmond had been charged with single counts of assault and issuing threats, aggravated assault and possession of a knife for dangerous purposes in an incident involving her, a male friend and two other men at the pool hall on Jan. 3, 2022.

But, Hoskins said, “I find [that] the Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the essential elements of the alleged offence of aggravated assault and failed to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Desmond was acting in defence of her friend in respect to the remaining five counts or charges.”

In his review of the events that night, captured by surveillance video, Hoskins said, “This case arises from a physical confrontation between Mr. Elijah Watts, and [Desmond’s friend] Mr. Kyle Ehler. Mr. Watts initiated the altercation for no apparent reason.”

Observing that another man, Kirk MacDonnell, became involved, he said, “Cassandra Desmond … physically intervened in the altercation … At one point, Ms. Desmond attempted to pull Mr. Watts off of Mr. Ehler, and at another point she pushed Mr. MacDonnell away from Mr. Ehler. At [a later] point ... Ms. Desmond walked away [and] within seconds ... returned to the altercation with an object, which appear[ed] to be a knife, in her possession.”

Hoskins then stated, “Ms. Desmond placed the knife against Mr. Watts’ face … As a result, Mr. Watts sustained a laceration on his face ... Eventually, Mr. MacDonnell convinced Mr. Watts to leave the bar … After Mr. MacDonnell noticed that Mr. Watts was wounded in the abdomen, he returned to the bar and charged at Mr. Ehler, grabbing and pushing him against a wall. Ms. Desmond intervened and at one point grabbed a picture frame from the wall where the men were fighting and struck Mr. MacDonnell with it. Following that, the incident ended, and Mr. MacDonnell exited the bar.”

Hoskins said that he could find no direct evidence indicating how Watts sustained the knife wound to his abdomen, noting that Watts had testified “that he did not see a weapon or knife, and could not say who, or what, applied the force ... that resulted in the injury.”

He noted that the video was “a very compelling and persuasive silent witness” that left him in a state of reasonable doubt about Desmond committing the offences.

“Based on all of evidence, it is reasonable to infer that Ms. Desmond was emotional and fearful for Mr. Ehler and thinking only about how to make the imminent threat of force stop. Her reaction was instinctive, sudden and spontaneous ... not motivated by vengeance, but rather the protection of or in defence of Mr. Ehler.”