Man acquitted amidst “cloud of suspicion”


Justice Robert Kilpatrick acquitted a Rankin Inlet man this week in connection with a sexual assault alleged to have occurred inside Nunavut Commissioner Peter Irniq’s Iqaluit residence in the summer of 2002.

After reviewing all the evidence, Kilpatrick was forced to conclude that Isiah Daniel Ernerk, 33, accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl, could not be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt – even though the case was “suspicious.”

“I can’t convict you beyond a reasonable doubt, but you leave here with a cloud of suspicion hanging over your head,” Kilpatrick said.

As Ernerk stood up to leave, a victims’ services worker, apparently enraged by the not-guilty verdict, walked up to the area behind the defence table and whacked Ernerk on the arm with a back-handed punch.

Ernerk is the brother of Nunavut Commissioner Peter Irniq. He was accused of molesting the teenager inside the Commissioner’s home on the night of July 31-Aug. 1, 2002.

The girl, now 14, said she was staying at the house while participating in a film production in Iqaluit. She lives in another northern community.

After spending an evening walking around Iqaluit with another girl, she said she went back to the Irniq home and fell asleep in a bedroom.

The girl said in court that she woke up in the middle of the night, feeling “uncomfortable,” and felt a man touching her vagina with his hand for about “two seconds.”

She looked up and saw Isiah Ernerk standing in the bedroom doorway, facing her.

Ernerk, testifying in his own defence, said he had been out drinking that night in an Iqaluit bar and arrived at his brother’s house “feeling high.”

He said he went upstairs, walked into the girl’s bedroom by mistake, backed out after he realized he was in the wrong place, then found the right bedroom and fell asleep. Ernerk denied touching the girl.

Defence lawyer Greg Nearing said he believed the girl’s story, but also said she was likely mistaken in thinking that Ernerk touched her.

Using a drawing of the room, he showed how it might be difficult for Ernerk to have reached her.

Because of the reasonable doubt created by that, and other evidence, Kilpatrick said he was forced to find the man not guilty.

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