The Hamilton Spectator
Trial delayed for man accused of preying on women home alone
Crown wonders whether Dennis Rhodes is feigning injuries to delay trial
An accused sexual predator who the Crown suggests is faking a head injury had his trial adjourned — and it may be an entire year before it can be rescheduled.
The long-awaited 10-day trial for Dennis Rhodes — accused of breaking into two homes and confining and sexually assaulting women — was to begin at 10 a.m. on Monday. But things got off to a rocky start and got worse.
At first, Rhodes refused to leave his cell at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre to be transported to the John Sopinka Courthouse, where lawyers, witnesses, police, staff and Justice Bernd Zabel were waiting.
The accused’s lawyer, Salematou Camara, told the court her client “hasn’t been doing well.”
Just before noon, having been convinced to make the trip, Rhodes showed up. Shuffling slowly and leaning heavily on a walker, he gingerly sat in the prisoner’s dock. The Ancaster man was wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, his ankles were shackled, his sparse hair was pulled into a ponytail and he sported a bushy grey beard.
Camara said her client was beaten in jail and has a brain injury and mobility issues as a result. She offered no further details.
Rhodes is facing two counts each of forcible confinement, disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence, sexual assault, and breaking and entering for attacks on young women near McMaster University.
On April 29, 2019, a masked man broke into a house on Stroud Road, confined a woman who was home alone and sexually assaulted her.
On July 26, 2019, on Glenmount Avenue, the same thing happened to another woman, also home alone.
Rhodes, now 42, was arrested that night.
He has a history of preying on women in their homes.
In October 2021, he was convicted of three counts of voyeurism, one count of prowling at night and one count of committing an indecent act.
He had been sneaking around houses, peering into windows and masturbating.
When he was arrested, his cellphones contained naked pictures of dozens of unsuspecting women. Attempts to appeal, failed. Camara, who took over the case from another lawyer in November, also said she only recently got full disclosure and hasn’t had an opportunity to properly discuss it with Rhodes.
Running a trial now would be “a trial fairness issue,” she said. “I am simply not ready.”
Camara asked Zabel to adjourn the matter and she would waive her client’s right to a speedy trial.
None of that sat well with assistant Crown attorney Elise Quinn, who argued Zabel should reject the request for an adjournment and begin the trial.
Quinn said this case is already old and the trial dates had been set for months. With the overburdened and backlogged court system in Hamilton, the next opportunity to schedule a 10-day trial would not be until March 2024. And these current 10 days that have been scheduled would be wasted.
“Ten days of court time is more precious than ever,” she said.
Then there is Rhode’s history of getting sick at critical moments.
“He has a tendency to feign health issues,” she told the court. Once, when being questioned on these charges, “he started dry heaving” and had to be taken to hospital. Nothing was found to be wrong.
She also said Rhode’s had his walker when he was admitted into custody, but never used it until he was being sentenced at his previous trial.
As for this recent jailhouse attack, Quinn said: “This assault gets worse and worse, according to him, as time goes by.” And yet, he has repeatedly cancelled appointments to see a neurologist for his alleged brain injury.
Then there is the concern Rhodes isn’t ready for trial.
“This is the first I am hearing he is unable to prepare meaningfully with his lawyer,” said Quinn, who said the previous defence lawyer had all the disclosure and promised the court to transfer it to Camara.
Zabel decided immediately. He told the court that if he ordered Rhodes to stand trial right now, it would surely be grounds for appeal and a new trial would be ordered. So he granted the defence request and ruled to adjourn.
The two women who were terrorized and violated in their own homes will have to wait even longer for justice.