Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic language heard in court that could be disturbing for some readers.
Paul Sadlon Sr. has proclaimed his innocence all along, his lawyer said after the prominent Barrie businessman was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman during a 2019 business meeting.
The 89-year-old Sadlon, whose car dealership Paul Sadlon Motors has long occupied a north-end corner of Bayfield Street, was found not guilty on Monday at the Barrie courthouse.
Sadlon, as well as his son and daughter who have supported him throughout the trial, opted to make no comment, leaving one of his two lawyers to speak on his behalf.
“He is just happy he can put this behind him and his family and continue on with his life,” said defence lawyer Karen Jokinen, adding Sadlon will now go back to the car dealership and continue working.
Sadlon has been a car dealer in Barrie for more than five decades. He is also the namesake of two local buildings: the 4,195-seat Sadlon Arena, a multi-purpose facility and home to the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts, as well as the Sadlon Centre for Health, Wellness and Sciences at Georgian College.
In rendering his verdict on Monday, provincial court Justice Joseph Wilson said he was left with reasonable doubt and could not convict the elderly businessman.
The presumption of innocence means the onus is on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt — which is the highest standard in the justice system, Wilson told the court before announcing his decision.
In reviewing the evidence heard during the three-day trial last month, Wilson pointed out inconsistencies in the testimony of both the complainant and Sadlon.
At its core is the allegation that he sexually touched a woman following a December 2019 business meeting in the lunch room of the north-end dealership.
Court heard the woman first met with Sadlon and an employee and a second meeting involving two of her colleagues followed.
During the second meeting, Sadlon told what the woman and her colleagues described as a lewd joke. That prompted comments by each of the two male colleagues in an attempt, they each testified, to defuse the situation, given that the two women in the room likely felt uncomfortable.
Sadlon, they said, made a comment about "having another pussy around the house to pet." But while the woman testified Sadlon put his hand on her arm as he said it, the two colleagues said they didn’t notice Sadlon touch her.
When Sadlon took the stand in his own defence, he said he didn’t remember telling the joke and it, therefore, never happened.
Once the meeting concluded, everyone had left the room but Sadlon and the woman.
She told the court that he blocked her exit out the door as he stood behind his chair because there was no room to walk around him. Then, she said, he hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, tried to pierce her lips with his tongue, was grinding his groin against her while moaning and grabbed her breasts.
She said she moved his hand away and told him what he was doing wasn’t right.
Sadlon denied the entire scenario and told the court he was mad at her. He suggested he had been ambushed at the meeting and wasn’t aware the two colleagues were to join them and said they had no reason to be there.
He said he yelled at her, told her he didn’t like the way she handled his business and was going to complain about her. Although, he said he never did.
At that point, he said she said to him: “You’ll be sorry.”
“He emphatically denied each of the allegations… and maintained there was no physical touching at all,” the judge recalled. “His evidence was that he was extremely upset with the complainant."
His evidence, the judge added, left him with reasonable doubt.
Following the decision, Jokinen suggested that comments published on social media about Sadlon and the case are not based on a foundation of evidence.
“There’s a difference between the court of public opinion and the court of law,” said the veteran defence lawyer. “That’s why we have members of a jury or a trial judge, because they have to hear all of the evidence in order to make a proper assessment.
“So what somebody might have said or thinks or heard through the grapevine is not evidence. But what you hear in the courtroom is evidence," Jokinen added.
The role of the courts and having a fair judiciary, she said, therefore is an integral one.