Warning: graphic content
When an elderly woman, alone in her ground-floor apartment, awoke to a strange man trying to rape her in bed, she fought until she could escape and call police.
The 78-year-old woman explained that the man was still in her suite and appeared intoxicated and confused, saying he didn’t know what he was doing because he has a “split personality.”
Jonathon Michael Laliberte, 29, was arrested outside the woman’s Avenue M apartment building minutes after the Oct. 2, 2017 attack. He pleaded guilty last fall to breaking and entering with intent to commit a sexual assault.
Laliberte initially told police he was drunk and high on methamphetamine and didn’t remember anything, including how he got into the woman’s apartment. There were scratch marks on his chest and neck, and the victim’s fingernails contained his DNA, Crown prosecutor Evan Thompson said during Monday’s sentencing arguments in Saskatoon provincial court.
The victim said the intruder held her down, sexually assaulted her and tried to rip her shirt off. He violently covered her mouth, injuring her lip and jaw, to stop her from screaming.
The attack warrants an eight-year sentence because it was a major sexual assault that involved a home invasion, physical force and confinement, Thompson argued. The sexual assault stopped short of rape only because of the woman’s ability to kick Laliberte off of her body, he said.
“This is the type of offence that strikes at the heart of the safety of the community,” Thompson told court.
Judge Robert Jackson sentenced Laliberte to seven years in prison because of the seriousness of the offence and its aggravating factors, adding that women should be able to feel safe in their own homes.
With an enhanced credit for the 18 months he’s spent on remand, Laliberte has less than five years left to serve.
Court heard his record contains 11 prior assault convictions, but no sexual offences. Thompson argued none of his previous rehabilitative sentences have worked, his behaviour has escalated and he’s never addressed his substance abuse issues. Court heard just months before the attack, he stopped living in a mental health approved home because of his drug use.
According to a pre-sentence report, Laliberte is unmotivated, considered a high risk to reoffend in general and is “well above” the average risk to reoffend sexually.
The attempted rape was a combination of impulsivity, intoxication and “significant” mental health issues rather than a pattern of planned, sexually deviant behaviour, defence lawyer Jonathan Stockdale said, arguing for a four- or five-year sentence.
He said his client’s Gladue factors, including an introduction to drugs at a young age, and his plethora of diagnoses — borderline personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, ADHD and drug-induced psychosis — make him less culpable.
Laliberte alleged doctors denied him medication while he was living on the street because they thought he was abusing it. Stockdale said he believes Laliberte can be managed in the community under the right care.
The victim told a pre-sentence report writer that she continues to live alone and hopes her attacker gets the help he needs. Thompson called her a “remarkably resilient individual.”