The SFUO’s office, seen in 2017. Photo: Rame Abdulkader/Fulcrum
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Yannick Mugabo also convicted of theft, transportation fraud

Content warning: This article contains subject matter regarding sexual assault that may be disturbing to some readers.

Yannick Mugabo, who served as the comptroller general of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) for a few months in 2017, faced charges of sexual assault, robbery, and fraud in relation to taxi fares this summer, the latter of which is undisputed by the accused.

Mugabo has previously been convicted for a number of offences the judge called “crimes of dishonesty” in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015, including theft, break and enter, fraud, and failing to comply. 

In July 2017 the SFUO’s Board of Administration ratified Mugabo as the comptroller general, tasked with monitoring the organization’s financial practices, but in September 2017 — after Ottawa police identified him as a suspect in a sexual assault — the SFUO removed Mugabo from the position.

The SFUO served as the U of O’s student governance from 1969–2018, before the U of O terminated its contract with the organization in the wake of fraud allegations against student leaders, and the subsequent election of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union this past year.

Found guilty of sexual assault

Presiding Justice Pierre E. Roger found that the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that non-consensual vaginal intercourse occurred between Mugabo and a female university student, whose name is protected under a publication ban, during the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2017. 

The court heard that prior to that date the complainant and Mugabo had never met. But after an evening out with friends, the complainant returned to her apartment and encountered Mugabo in the vestibule of her apartment building.

Video surveillance from the apartment building shows that she then “buzzed” herself into the building, allowing the accused to enter behind and accompany her in the elevator up to the floor on which she resided. 

The complainant testified that she was intoxicated from drinking at the bar with her friends earlier in the night, and that her first memory of meeting Mugabo was in the hallway outside of her apartment. 

Both Mugabo and the complainant said that during this time he offered her money for sex, while Mugabo also claimed he was trying to convince her to accompany him to an afterparty on another floor of the building.

Mugabo and his defence maintained throughout the inquiry that no vaginal intercourse occurred between himself and the complainant, instead testifying that the complainant agreed to have sex for money in the stairwell of her building and that, in the end, only consensual oral sex was exchanged between the parties before he ejaculated. 

Meanwhile, the complainant told the court that she did not give Mugabo oral sex, but does remember him performing cunnilingus on her in the stairwell. However, she told the court that she did not consent to this activity. 

Although the complainant noted significant memory gaps about arriving at her apartment building that morning, entering or seeing anyone in the vestibule and lobby, and the presence of the accused with her in the elevator, she testified in detail to her memory of being forcibly penetrated. 

“The complainant remembers the accused on top of her, trying to penetrate her vagina with his penis. She said she told him to stop and that she tried to push him off. She said that the accused put his hand over her mouth and was able to penetrate her vagina with his penis,” Roger noted in his decision. 

“She said that she tried to grab her phone to call someone and that he pushed it away. She does not remember how long any vaginal intercourse occurred and does not know whether the accused ejaculated. She said that she remembers that she was crying as he was penetrating her with his penis.”

The judge noted male DNA was detected on the external genitalia and vaginal swabs, and from the swab of the crotch area of the complainant’s shorts, chemical constituents were detected which may or may not indicate semen. 

Theft vs. robbery

Roger also found Mugabo guilty of theft under $5,000 but not robbery, as he took the complainant’s debit card from her shorts while performing cunnilingus and later tried to use it to pay for a taxi ride to Orleans. Mugabo testified that he took it by mistake, instead believing it to be only his $120 and debit card that he had given her during their agreement to exchange money for sex.

The judge was unconvinced that the feeling of a card in one’s hand could be mistaken for cash, and further noted that the complainant’s shorts did not contain the $120 in question upon examination by the police. 

However, he continued that the Crown had not proven to him beyond a reasonable doubt that the theft was sufficiently “immediate” to the violence to constitute robbery, and thus wrote that “conviction for the included offence of theft will be entered” in place of the offence of robbery. 

Undisputed fraud

Upon Mugabo’s arrival in Orleans by taxi, the court heard that he attempted to use the complainant’s card to pay the fare. 

When he was unable to enter the correct PIN, taxi camera footage shows that he took off running and did not pay the fare of $45. The defence did not dispute that elements of transportation fraud were met.

Mugabo’s lawyer, Genevieve McInnes, did not respond to the Fulcrum’s request for comment by the time of this publication.

Savannah Awde is a member of the Fulcrum’s Board of Directors.

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, please contact: 613-725-2160 (Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa) or 613-562-2333 (Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre). To make your first appointment with U of O counselling click here or visit Health Services at 100 Marie Curie Private. A full list of sexual assault resources is available here.