Judge must decide whether woman consented to bondage during sex

Advisory: This story has graphic details about an alleged sexual assault.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge must decide if a young woman gave her consent to be bound with zip ties and blindfolded during sex or whether she endured a planned, savage, prolonged confinement and sexual assault which left her fearing for her life.

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Nicholas Johnston is charged with sexual assault, unlawful confinement and threatening the woman on Dec. 2, 2018.

The 21-year-old woman, whose identify is protected by court order, was a teenager at the time of the alleged offences.

During the week-long trial, Justice Brian MacKenzie was faced with two starkly different versions of what happened that night. Both Crown and defence agree consent is the main issue.

The woman testified that Johnston put restraints on her with force and she did not consent to being tied up and blindfolded.

Johnston testified that the woman agreed to be tied up for his role playing fantasy.

After Johnston’s arrest, police searched his house and found duct tape, a yellow rope, a dental dam, a speculum, a camera and a tarp in a room upstairs.

Crown prosecutor Paul Pearson told the court that the two met online and gave this account of what happened. On Dec. 2, 2018, Johnston picked the woman up and took her to his home in a quiet neighbourhood near the Chinese cemetery. They went into the bedroom. After the woman massaged him, Johnston asked her for fellatio and she refused.

“At that point, Johnston became frustrated because he had a fantasy to dominate her, bind her with zip ties, blindfold her with a mask, have sex with her, then photograph her,” ­Pearson said.

Johnston brought zip ties and a mask into the bedroom without seeking her consent and he told her “the more she struggled, the harder it would get.” Johnston then placed the mask on her and tied her hands behind her back.

To prevent injury, she made excuses and went to the ­washroom. After that, Johnston took her upstairs where, under her blindfold, she could see a tarp on the ground. She was terrified.

“She pulled her hands free and slipped out of the zip tie, which she made sure was loosely applied. She took off her mask and saw a camera, screamed and threw his MacBook down the stairs.”

Johnston placed his hands on her mouth to stop the screams and she bit a hand. He punched her stomach; she crumpled and fell to the ground.

“She realized if she wanted to survive she needed to be calm and apologize to him for being ‘crazy’ and went downstairs with him,” said Pearson. They had sex, but it was done under duress, with a reasonable fear for her safety and for her life, he said.

Johnston took the stand in his own defence, testifying that when he picked her up in his car, he told her he wanted to do role playing.

“I asked if she had used restraints before. She said she had used soft handcuffs before. I asked her if she liked being tied. She said she did.”

Johnston testified that he told her if she had any problems to tell him to stop. She said she wanted to go slower.

They went to the bedroom and he showed her “my zip ties and I explained that I wanted to put them on her wrist.”

After he put the zip ties on, he told her he would blindfold her. She did not struggle and they had sex for a few minutes, he testified. Then she asked to take off the zip ties and the blindfold and he said sure.

Johnston testified that they went upstairs. He went first and she followed him but suddenly stopped when she saw a camera and started screaming. She got hysterical and threw his MacBook on the floor, he said.

Johnston told defence lawyer Rolfe Horne that he didn’t punch her or cover her face with his hands and she didn’t bite his fingers

“Does she say to you: ‘Are you going to kill me?’ ” asked Horne.

No, Johnston replied

Johnston testified that they went downstairs and she calmed down and apologized. In the bedroom, he put the blindfold back on her face. They had sex. “She was happy,” he said.

In final submissions Friday, Horne said the woman’s testimony was not credible and Johnston was forthright in his answers.

Pearson said the woman had no motive to lie. “The evidence of the complainant is crystal clear, she did not consent.”

“Her evidence was compelling and believable and consistent with police photographs of the scene,” said Pearson, who asked the judge to reject Johnston’s evidence.

The judge will release his decision on the case at a later date.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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