WAINWRIGHT, Alta. – The former commanding officer of an Armed Forces base in Alberta has been found guilty of sexual assault.
A military judge found that Maj. David Yurczyszyn groped a woman’s breast near the Wainwright training base, southeast of Edmonton, nearly two years ago.
At the beginning of his court martial this week, Yurczyszyn pleaded guilty to a charge of drunkenness under the National Defence Act.
But he denied intentionally grabbing the woman at a party on Remembrance Day in 2012. He testified he was picking a hair off her sweater when he stumbled into her by accident.
The judge, Col. Michael Gibson, told court he believed the woman’s version of events.
A publication ban prevents identifying the woman. The prosecutor, Lt.-Cmdr. Saloumeh Torani, said she couldn’t reveal if the woman is a civilian or a soldier.
Torani said Yurczyszyn had been drinking at the legion and another bar before he showed up in his uniform at the party in the town of Wainwright. He was intoxicated, dishevelled and slurring his words.
“While at the party he made some comments about this lady’s breasts and then touched the breasts,” Torani said.
She believes the judge will be ready to sentence Yurczyszyn on Friday.
She has asked that the officer be demoted two levels in rank to a lieutenant. Yurczyszyn’s lawyer recommended he receive a severe reprimand on his file and a fine between $5,000 and $8,000.
A decade earlier, Yurczyszyn was charged but cleared in a sex-tape scandal.
He was accused in 2001 of making a homemade porn tape and showcasing it at military parties while a junior officer in Ontario.
Court heard so-called “porn and chicken nights” were a long-time ritual to help cadets unwind. Soldiers would often rent hotel rooms and watch sex videos while eating chicken.
The military began investigating after a female cadet complained about one tape that featured a soldier having sex with a civilian woman, a university student, in the bedroom of another soldier’s apartment at the base in Kingston. The video was made without the woman’s permission.
A judge convicted the officer who had sex with the woman and the other who lived in the apartment and they were let go from the military.
But the judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to support a conviction against Yurczyszyn and dismissed the defence charges against him: behaving in a disgraceful manner and conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
Despite his ruling, the judge was still critical of Yurczyszyn’s behaviour.
The judge said Yurczyszyn, a second-lieutenant, was “more than a common bystander.” Yurczyszyn could be heard in part of the tape saying “get her while she’s drunk” and discussed where the camera was to be placed in the bedroom.
Yurczyszyn was next stationed in Petawawa, Ont., and completed three overseas tours — one in Bosnia and two in Afghanistan. He took over command of the Wainwright base in June 2012, five months before the sex assault at the Remembrance Day party.
Yurczyszyn was removed from the top job after he was charged last year, and transferred to army headquarters in Ottawa.