Former AFN vice-chief not guilty of sex assault

Morley Googoo speaks with reporters outside of court after a judge acquitted him of sexual assault on July 8, 2022/Photo by Stephen Brake

A former Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw chief and Assembly of First Nations regional vice-chief has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at his home in We’koqma’q First Nation, N.S. in 2013.

Judge Shane Russell acquitted Morley Googoo of the charge in Sydney Provincial Court on July 8.

In his decision, Judge Russell said the crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt that Googoo had violently sexually assaulted the woman in March 2013.

“The issue is not which is more believable, or even which one is telling the truth or something closest to the truth,” Judge Russell said as he read his verdict in court.

“It’s whether or not, on the evidence considered as a whole, there’s reasonable doubt with respect to any of the essential elements of the events,” he said.

Morley Googoo and a family member arrive at Sydney Provincial Court on July 8, 2022/Photo by Stephen Brake

Googoo previously served as chief of We’koqma’q First Nation for nearly 20 years before he was elected as the AFN regional vice-chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in 2011. He was removed from that position in 2019 following several investigations that he bullied, harassed and discriminated against women at the regional and national level.

Complainant felt weird after consuming a soft drink

The trial was held in Wagmatcook Provincial Court over two days in April. The woman who accused Googoo of sexual assault testified that she had visited Googoo at his home one evening in March 2013 to seek help in bringing an anti-violence program to a First Nation community.

The woman, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, told the court that she felt weird soon after consuming a soft drink that Googoo has offered. She testified that she remembered staggering and being led into a bedroom by Googoo where he sat her down, undressed her and then sexually assaulted her.

The woman, who was the crown’s only witness, testified that she didn’t immediately remember the sexual assault or why she experienced pain in her groin at the time. She said she only began to remember details of the alleged assault years later through flashbacks and nightmares before she filed a complaint to the RCMP in 2020.

Morley Googoo, right, follows his lawyer, Christopher Conohan, into Wagmatcook Provincial Court on Apr. 22, 2022 for his sexual assault trial/Photo by Stephen Brake

Googoo, who also testified at his trial, denied he sexually assaulted the woman in March 2013. He told the court he was rarely at home in We’koqma’q while he was the AFN regional vice-chief during the time in question. He said when he was at home, he was always there with his family.

The former leader relied on copies of receipts, invoices, meeting agendas and printouts of his posts on the social media website, Facebook, to verify his whereabouts during that time period.

Googoo’s ex-wife, his son and a neighbour, who was also a relative and his son’s friend, also testified on his behalf during the trial.

“Glad the outcome was innocent” – Morley Googoo

In his decision, Judge Russell said he accepted the evidence Googoo submitted regarding his whereabouts when the alleged offence occurred.

“When I examine the evidence in the matter as a whole, including the evidence of the complainant together with the evidence presented by the defence, including evidence of the accused, which I have accepted and considered together, I must find I have a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the allegation occurred,” Judge Russell said.

Following the verdict, Googoo said outside the courtroom that he was “glad the outcome was innocent.”

“We’re just glad as a family that we can now move forward and try to get life back to normal. It’s been a challenging time,” he said.

Googoo’s lawyer, Chris Conohan, said he was also happy with the outcome.

“The sad part about these sorts of cases, of course, is that there’s a stigma even in the allegation, but I think that the evidence unfolded in the way that made it very clear that the charges were unfounded,” he said following the verdict.

Crown Attorney Tracy Sturmy speaks with reporters on July 8, 2022/Photo by Stephen Brake

Crown attorney Tracy Sturmy said she planned to reach out to the victim to inform her of the judge’s decision.

Sturmy didn’t say whether the crown intends to appeal the decision but she said there is “an obligation on the crown always to review the evidence and the decision of the court.”

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.