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Judge says man who claimed 'sexsomnia' was pretending to be asleep

It’s the second time Ryan Hartman has been found guilty of sexual assault by an Ontario court.

by Hilary Beaumont
Nov 19 2018, 6:47pm

An Ontario judge has declared a man guilty of sexual assault after he claimed he was sleepwalking.

It was Ryan Hartman’s second trial. He was previously found guilty of penetrating a woman while she slept on an air mattress following a house party in 2011. His claim of “sexsomnia” was backed up by an expert witness who testified that he believed Hartman suffered from a sleep disorder. But in her decision, Justice Kimberly Moore said the expert’s report was “careless,” and Hartman was instead pretending to be asleep, according to reporters tweeting from the courtroom.

The judge ruled the man was awake when he penetrated the woman. He may have been in an alcohol-induced blackout, she said, but he was conscious at the time. “Mr. Hartman is criminally responsible,” she told the court.

When she heard the decision, the complainant, who had the word “survivor” tattooed on her wrist after the incident, hugged crown lawyers.

In 2012, Ryan Hartman was found guilty of sexual assault. Following a house party in 2011, the woman fell asleep next to her boyfriend on an air mattress and woke up to Hartman penetrating her anally — a fact that Hartman did not dispute in his second trial.

After the first trial, Hartman was sentenced to 14 months in jail. He appealed and lost. But in a second appeal, he admitted to penetrating the woman without her consent, but said he had suffered from a sleep disorder and was not aware of his actions at the time. He was granted a new trial. That trial was heard in April 2017, and the judge gave her decision orally in the court on Monday.

According to CBC reporters Judy Trinh and Matthew Kupfer, who tweeted from the courtroom, Justice Kimberly Moore went over the evidence, including testimony from witnesses, experts and Hartman himself.

Hartman’s mother testified that he sleepwalked as a child, and his fiance told the court he had previously been sexually active while asleep.

Dr. Colin Shapiro, an expert witness, testified that he thought Hartman suffered from parasomnia, pointing at the man’s lack of memory about the incident, and that he was disoriented after the incident, along with his family history of parasomnia. Shapiro tested Hartman in his sleep clinic over a period of two nights, with no alcohol the first night, and four drinks the second night. Shapiro said Hartman showed symptoms of sexsomnia, including sexual behaviour in his sleep.

Hartman claimed he didn’t remember penetrating the woman, although he said at the time he thought he had made out with her. He said he was “semi-conscious but not awake” at the time. He said he had consumed five large cans of beer, six small cans of beer, eight vodka drinks, followed by more drinks.

Shapiro testified that alcohol can worsen “sexsomnia,” but also conceded that drunkenness could explain Hartman’s lack of memory. A forensic toxicologist testified that alcohol can cause amnesia, and that a blackout from alcohol is different from sleepwalking in that it is memory loss while the person is still conscious.

Hartman’s sentencing will happen later this month.

Cover image by Audtakorn Sutarmjam/Getty images.