Former Edmonton nightclub promoter sentenced to 8 years for 5 sex assaults
EDMONTON -- A former Edmonton nightclub promoter has been sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting five women.
Matthew McKnight, 33, was accused of sexually assaulting 13 women ranging in age from 17 to 22 between 2010 and 2016.
He pleaded not guilty, but a jury convicted him on five counts in January.
Judge Doreen Sulyma delivered the sentence in Alberta Court of Queen's Bench on Friday following a seven-day sentencing hearing.
Several victims and their supporters joined hands and stood in court while the sentence was delivered.
The hearing was briefly interrupted due to an outburst from one of McKnight's victims who screamed out her apparent discontent with the sentence before pushing over a courtroom computer monitor and being removed by sheriffs.
Judge Sulyma's sentence for the five assaults totalled to 16 1/2 years, but she reduced that figure, citing several mitigating factors.
"I do not consider the moral blameworthiness of Mr. McKnight to be so grave as to require such a lengthy sentence to demonstrate society’s need to denounce and deter other like-minded persons," Sulyma told the court.
Sulyma cited a 2016 beating McKnight suffered in the Edmonton Remand Centre as well as him being a first-time offender with what she believes to be good prospects of rehabilitation as mitigating factors in cutting the sentence to eight years.
"A sentence of 16 1/2 years simply exceeds what would be just and appropriate," Sulyma said.
"Where a potential for rehabilitation exists, a crushing sentence should be avoided.”
She found that McKnight's lack of use of condom in the assaults was an aggravating factor. She also found that bruising documented on one of the victims was an aggravating factor in one of the counts.
"It reflects a violence in the exchange,” she said.
Sulyma ruled that Crown prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a drug beyond alcohol had been involved in the assaults.
McKnight's defence had argued for a sentence of between over four years and nine years. Crown prosectors were seeking a 22 1/2 year sentence.
Court heard McKnight met most of the women in bars and assaulted them at his apartment.
He was remanded into custody after sentencing. A number of his victims broke out in applause as he was led away after sentencing.
"It felt like I had a voice," one of the complainants told CTV News following the hearing.
"I might not have won in a way but I feel like in the end, it's slightly worth it knowing we did it together and he's getting some time."
Her identity, along with those of the other victims, is protected by a publication ban.
"I think it was a fit and propert sentence," said defence lawyer Dino Bottos.
Crown prosecutor Mark Huyser-Wierenga said he understood why the victims wanted a longer prison term.
"They're disappointed obviously," he said. "The end result here obviously has not satisfied them."
He told CTV News the Crown is considering an appeal.
McKnight will be eligible for parole after a third of his sentence, or 2 2/3 years. He is eligible for statutory release after two-thirds of his sentence, or 5 1/3 years.
'DENOUNCE AND DETER'
In seeking a sentence of more than 22 years, Huyser-Wierenga told Sulyma she had a "unique opportunity to denounce and deter" McKnight's crimes.
“These are gravely serious offences and Mr. McKnight's degree of moral responsibility is high,” said Huyser-Wierenga during in his opening submission.
“He's a man who has had a privileged upbringing in many ways.”
The court heard from four of McKnight's victims who said they are suffering from anxiety, depression and nightmares due to the assaults years after they happened.
"You saw intoxication as an opportunity," one of the women told the court.
"My body didn’t feel like mine because I wasn’t in control," she said in her victim impact statement.
"I felt robbed, invaded, worthless and helpless."
The woman said she remained silent about the attacks for years until hearing of other victims and going to the police.
"I stand here against sexual predators," she said. "I stand here so he can never do this to anyone else."
Huyser-Wierenga also argued that there's been no evidence detailing the psychology behind what he termed McKnight's "troubling pattern of abuse."
"We have no understanding of why Mr. McKnight raped five women over six years," he said.
"Hook up culture doesn’t involve raping people you’re hooking up with."
He also challenged the defence's assertion that as a young, first-time offender McKnight had strong prospects of rehabilitation.
"Where's the evidence for that?"
'A VENEGEFUL SENTENCE'
In his sentencing submissions, Bottos argued that the Crown had "lost perspective in this case."
"I've never been involved in a case where Crown and defence have been so far apart," Bottos said.
"Their submissions seem to be calling for a vengeful sentence," he said.
"Something that may make some people in this public feel good. It may quench their thirst for blood, however that's not how we sentence offenders in Canada."
Bottos presented six factors he says should mitigate McKnight's sentence, including what he termed the vigilante justice McKnight suffered in the 2016 Remand Centre beating from his cellmate.
- McKnight's defence argues for 5 to 9 year sentence for sex assault convictions
- Defence argues prison beating should mitigate McKnight's sex assault sentence
McKnight required stitches and staples following the attack where he was punched to the ground and kicked multiple times in the head. He earlier told the court he fears for his safety while incarcerated.
The Crown has argued the beating should have no effect on the sentence, saying McKnight could've asked the guards for protection but didn't.
Bottos also noted what he called an "inordinate" amount of public condemnation as well as how McKnight was a first-time offender, had strong family support and had complied with his bail conditions for nearly four years.
"He's suffered far more than your average sex offender."
McKnight addressed the court on the final day of his sentencing hearing last Friday night.
"I know that many people think me to be an unfeeling monster but that is not the case at all. My heart is bursting, and I feel like absolute garbage for making people feel that way," he said.
“While I stand by my testimony at this trial, I recognize that I have no one but myself to blame for the situation I find myself in.”