WARNING: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.
The victim who was brutally sexually assaulted by a Kingston man last summer faced her attacker in court on Tuesday.
“He strangled me, assaulted me and violated me in every way that he could,” the victim told the courtroom while holding back tears.
Nicholas Johnson, 27, was charged on Aug. 18, 2018 with sexual assault, assault, choking, breaking and entering and breaching his probation. He pleaded guilty to those charges in October 2018, and as part of the plea deal, on Jan. 29, the breach probation and break and enter charges were dropped.
After a joint submission from the Crown and the defence, Justice Alison Wheeler sentenced Johnson to nine years, plus time served, in a federal penitentiary.
During the sentencing, Justice Wheeler described Johnson’s attack as “the stuff of nightmares.”
His victim, a woman in her 20s whose name is protected by a publication ban, presented her victim impact statement at Johnson’s sentencing hearing. Through her words, along with the agreed statement of facts presented in court, the story of what happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 2018 unfolded.
Johnson — a carpenter by trade with minor convictions under his belt, like credit card fraud and driving over the legal limit — had been at The Plaza strip club Friday evening. He was drunk and took a myriad of drugs, including cocaine, crystal meth and perhaps fentanyl, according to his defence lawyer Daniel Scully.
At the time, the victim lived alone in a apartment building that backs onto the Global Kingston parking lot.
“I went to bed safe and sound Friday night, only to wake up to a stranger in my home,” she told the courtroom.
According to the agreed statement of facts, Johnson left the strip club and later climbed the fire escape that led to the victim’s apartment.
When the victim woke up to footsteps in her apartment around 3 a.m., she realized she had forgotten to lock her door.
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She got up and saw Johnson standing in her home and realized she did not know him. She asked if he got the wrong apartment — that is when he attacked her.
While describing the events, the victim broke from the narrative and wondered aloud to the courtroom.
“What if I had been away? What if I had remembered to lock my door?”
The Crown explained how Johnson went for the victim’s throat, and squeezed it so hard that it burst a blood vessel in one of her eyes. She tried to fight back, grabbing a pot to hit him, kicking him in the groin.
But Johnson overpowered her and threatened her. He told her, “Stop screaming or I’ll kill you,” the victim remembered him saying.
“I felt completely hopeless. I fought as hard as I could and screamed as loud as I could,” she said.
The victim then described beginning to lose consciousness as he squeezed harder on her neck, while she thought of her boyfriend, her family and her life.
This is when she says to save her life, she had to stop fighting.
“Eventually I saw a chance I could survive if I played my cards right,” she told the court room. “It meant defeat.”
Once the victim stopped fighting back, Johnson sexually assaulted her for somewhere between two to three hours. During that time, the victim tried to escape, but Johnson beat her and once again threatened to kill her.
Johnson — who ducked his head below the bench while the victim gave her statement — claims he does not remember the events of that night due to extreme intoxication.
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Finally, sometime after 5 a.m., he got out of the victim’s bed, left the apartment, leaving behind a yellow Lakers jersey. The victim called police immediately.
On Saturday morning, Kingston police released security images of Johnson to the public asking for their assistance to find him. After a few leads, Johnson was found later that day at an elderly relative’s home, and had shaved his beard from the night before. In the security images released from the Plaza taken the night before, Johnson was sporting a dark beard.
At the time of his arrest in late August, Johnson was on a two-year probation for a previous offence and was also lying to his probation officer about where he was living.
Despite the fact that her attacker been in custody since he was arrested in late August, the victim told the court that she was still reeling from the trauma of her assault.
Not only did she suffer significant bruising on her neck and body, as well as lacerations from the attack, but her mental and emotional states have suffered since the sexual assault.
She had to move from her apartment, take several weeks off of work and several additional days off for appointments with her therapist.
She also explained experiencing symptoms of PTSD — dissociation, numbness, flashbacks and hyper-vigilance. She has since had hard times with her personal relationships, and has also experienced bouts of panic and extreme fear in ordinary situations.
In fact, the victim was accompanied by a personal support dog when she delivered her statement in court, and began crying as soon as Johnson entered the room.
Despite the visible toll of giving her impact statement, Justice Wheeler thanked her for doing it so eloquently. The judge ended by telling her:
“Nothing that happened was your fault. This was not your fault.”