De­fence ques­tions com­plainant’s cred­i­bil­ity

Trial of abo­rig­i­nal healer on charge of sex­ual as­sault ended Thurs­day; judge’s ver­dict is ex­pected Fri­day

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

Clos­ing ar­gu­ments in a trial of an abo­rig­i­nal healer fo­cused on the cred­i­bil­ity of the young woman who says he sex­u­ally as­saulted her.

De­fence lawyer Lau­ren Wil­helm ar­gued Thurs­day that the woman’s cred­i­bil­ity is un­der­mined if she has the wrong date of the al­leged of­fence.

Wil­helm pre­sented de­fence wit­nesses ear­lier this week who tes­ti­fied Wal­ter Cooke was not at work in his of­fice where the as­sault was to have taken place on the day in ques­tion early last year.

As­sis­tant Crown at­tor­ney Andrew Scott poked holes in that tes­ti­mony and ar­gued that the ev­i­dence of the woman and her boyfriend — who were both shocked at what al­legedly hap­pened — rang true.

“A sig­nif­i­cant core as­pect of their ev­i­dence is how dis­traught she is,” he said. “They talk about her ly­ing on the floor and cry­ing.”

Cooke, 68, is an el­der and coun­sel­lor on staff at the De dwa da dehs Nye> s Abo­rig­i­nal Health Cen­tre on Main Street East in Hamilton.

His trial on one count of sex­ual as­sault wrapped up on Thurs­day with sum­ma­tions. Cooke has pleaded not guilty.

Jus­tice Richard Jen­nis is ex­pected to ren­der his ver­dict Fri­day morn­ing.

The al­leged vic­tim — who was 18 at the time — tes­ti­fied at the start of trial that she was at Cooke’s of­fice, where she of­ten saw him for ad­vice and coun­selling. He also per­formed a smudg­ing, an abo­rig­i­nal cleans­ing and heal­ing, on her, she said. Cooke fol­lowed this with an en­ergy heal­ing, which in­volved float­ing his hands above her body.

But then, he rubbed her stom­ach and put a hand down her jeans and un­der her un­der­wear, she said. He pulled his hand out as soon as she said “hey,” but he com­mented about how nice her pri­vate parts were, she tes­ti­fied.

In the trial’s clos­ing sub­mis­sions Thurs­day, Wil­helm said the com­plainant’s ev­i­dence is fraught with prob­lems, in­clud­ing not re­port­ing the al­leged in­ci­dent un­til a day later and that the as­sault took place on a day when Cooke was not in his of­fice.

Cooke’s wife, Deb Cooke, tes­ti­fied ear­lier that Cooke was sick on the day in ques­tion. Two of his co­work­ers said they did not see him that day at the of­fice.

“If you don’t ac­cept he wasn’t there, it’s still suf­fi­cient for rea­son­able doubt,” Wil­helm said.

Scott ar­gued that only Cooke’s wife was adamant he was not at work that day. One co-worker went to his of­fice twice that day to talk to him, but just didn’t see him; and the other saw only the com­plainant, he ar­gued.

Court heard ear­lier that Cooke did not keep or work time records as re­quired at the cen­tre.

Scott also main­tained that any dis­crep­an­cies in the woman and her boyfriend’s in­di­vid­ual tes­ti­mony show they did not col­lab­o­rate on their ev­i­dence. He ar­gued in any case that any in­con­sis­ten­cies in the date of the al­leged of­fence “don’t go to the core of the al­le­ga­tion.”

Wal­ter Cooke has pleaded not guilty.

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