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Sexual assault conviction against Fleur-de-Lys man stands

Robert Traverse, originally from Fleur-de-Lys, is led into provincial court in Corner Brook in this undated photo.
Robert Traverse, originally from Fleur-de-Lys, is led into provincial court in Corner Brook in this undated photo. - The Western Star

Justice rules delays in more than 6-year-old case mainly Traverse’s doing

FLEUR-DE-LYS, NL — A former Fleur-de-Lys man with a storied criminal history that began in his hometown and escalated to far more serious crimes and apparent gang activity was not able to avoid sentencing on the 2011 sexual assault of a minor.

Justice George Murphy recently dismissed an application put forth by Robert Cletus Traverse in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook. Traverse, already convicted of sexual offences involving a minor and related charges when he lived in Fleur-de-Lys, claimed his rights were violated under section 11 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The trial — in which he pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting the girl under the age of 16, touching the same girl with his fingers and inviting her touch a part of his body with her hand both for sexual purposes, providing the same underage girl with liquor and two breaches of probation — concluded six years, six months and nine days after the charges were laid against the then-29-year-old.
However, Murphy concluded the delay not attributed to the defence was significantly less than the 30 months the court rules upon.

Traverse was convicted of touching the girl for a sexual purpose with a part of his body and a breach of probation last November. Prior to the October trial, he had informed the court of his intentions to seek a stay of proceedings based on the denial of his rights to be tried within a reasonable time. He had asked for a postponement of the trial for that application, but Murphy refused given there was time to bring the application forward before the trial. It was not filed until Nov. 9 – the date of the conviction – and amended Nov. 30.

Of particular note, since his original court appearance in April 2011, Traverse or his lawyer, Robbie Ash, had the matter set over more than 10 times before a trial was finally scheduled to begin Sept. 30, 2013. That accounted for most of the 883 days delayed to that point.

Traverse did not show up for his trial, with Ash advising he was in custody in Alberta. For the next court appearance, Ash said he would likely be in jail until the following March.

In March, Ash applied to be removed as counsel and the request was granted. A week later, at the trial date, a warrant was issued for Traverse’s arrest.

The matter came before the court again in September 2016, but Traverse did not appear until March of last year when he appeared by video from prison.
By June, Traverse had finally obtained lawyer Jamie Luscombe to represent him. Traverse went to trial Oct. 18 – 2,335 days (more than six years) after his first court appearance.

Murphy noted the six times Traverse failed to appear for court, and the justice did not agree the resulting delays were due to exceptional circumstances. He ruled they were delays caused by the conduct of the defence.

“The manner in which the applicant dealt with these charges from the beginning, including his failure to attend court on the occasions noted and the miniscule steps he took to deal with the charges after missing his trial dates, is not the conduct of a person who was interested in having his trial held within a reasonable time,” Murphy stated in his written decision.

Dawson Creek, B.C. arrest

In August 2014, media reported Traverse was arrested after police raided a rural Dawson Creek property. Their suspect – identified by police as Traverse, who they said was an associate of the notorious United Nations gang – burst out of a stolen travel trailer barefoot and took off on an all-terrain vehicle. It took police, with assistance of a helicopter and police dogs, four hours to corner him.

His charges included drug trafficking and firearms offences and possession of property obtained by a crime. He was carrying a bag with a loaded Smith & Wesson .22-calibre handgun, about $35,000 in cash, five ounces of crack and powder cocaine, about half an ounce of methamphetamine and several opiate pills, according to police. About $200,000 worth of stolen property was recovered.

Traverse pleaded guilty to drug and stolen property charges and was handed a 21-month sentence minus time served.

The raid was part of an investigation into a drug-trafficking group. Traverse was identified by police as the leader of the gang members from Grand Prairie, Alta. He was also wanted by police in Alberta at the time.

Fairview, Alta. arrest

When the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team searched a rural home outside of Fearview, Alta. in May 2016, Traverse, then 35 years of age, reportedly armed and barricaded himself inside for three hours. He eventually surrendered.
He was then wanted in three provinces, and media reported he had been charged with 25 counts related to drugs, guns and stolen property.

Firearms and about $50,000 worth of stolen property were found, along with small amounts of cocaine and fentanyl. Police believed more drugs were destroyed before they could seize them.

Five other people were arrested.

After pleading guilty to eight charges — possession of a substance, possession of a prohibited weapon, three counts of possession of stolen property and breach of probation — he was later sentenced to almost two years and eight months in jail. He was given credit for 839 days time served, leaving 421 days to serve.

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