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Michael Hurst found guilty of more sexual assaults

Jury in latest sexual assault trial came back after four hours of deliberations
Michael Hurst, seen here outside Guelph's Superior Court of Justice. GuelphToday file photo

*Warning: This article contains elements that some may find triggering.

*Editor's note: A publication ban covers any information that might identify the victims in this case, including many details of the incidents themselves.

A Palmerston man has been convicted of three more sexual assault charges.

Michael Hurst was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault by a 12-person jury Thursday in connection with incidents that took place between 2003 and 2005.

He was also acquitted of one count of sexual assault and a count of committing an indecent act.

This comes after a week-long trial at Guelph Superior Court. The jury deliberated for about four hours.

Hurst had five other sexual assault convictions unrelated to this matter earlier this year. Those came at two separate trials. The most recent last month.

This latest trial saw two female victims Hurst had contact with take the stand. The two of them – along with family and friends – were in the court gallery, visibly emotional as the verdict was read out.

These women "carried this burden for years," Crown attorney Mark Eshuis told the jury in his closing address on Wednesday.

Two of the three incidents Hurst was found guilty of involved rape. Eshuis said both times the women were asleep and woke up to Hurst penetrating them.

In defence attorney Mary Murphy's address, she argued the sexual encounters were consensual.

For the first victim, Eshuis said Hurst came to the woman's house one night after being out drinking with friends. The victim left the door unlocked, after she was told several people would be coming over but Hurst was the only one who arrived. The woman and Hurst arrived at the home separately.

Eshuis said the woman left the front door unlocked and went to sleep.

Defence lawyer Murphy argued Hurst went to the woman’s bedroom to ask about sleeping arrangements, she was awake and she moved over to let him sleep in the same bed.

She added the two stayed up for a conversation, and “while talking, they progressed to kissing, to undressing and into intercourse.”

The second victim, the jury heard, went with Hurst and mutual friends for a night of drinking.

The woman stayed the night at Hurst’s house, and fell asleep on the couch. The jury heard the woman woke up on the floor with Hurst on top of her, penetrating her without consent.

Judge Gordon Lemon, in his charge to the jury, recalled the woman’s testimony that she "froze" and didn't fight back.

The defence alleges the woman was given clothing to sleep in, changed, went back into the main room and began kissing.

In a separate incident involving this victim – where the third guilty verdict came from – the court heard he was dropped off at the woman’s house, looking for an after party, but found the woman and another man sleeping in bed.

“(The woman) felt a hand touching her vagina,” Eshuis told the jury. “She thought it was (the man in her bed, not Hurst), she opened her eyes and saw it was Michael Hurst. He was kneeled down and he was touching her vaginal area.”

The woman asked Hurst what he was doing, kicked at him and asked him to leave.

The defence said Hurst acknowledged he was in the bedroom to wake the woman up.

“Mr. Hurst testified that he did not touch her, other than on the arm to wake her,” Murphy said. “She growled at him and said to leave.”

Hurst took the stand for the defence during the trial, as did his wife.

A publication ban prohibits any information that may identify the victims, including details of the incidents themselves.

Of note, a minor verbal altercation involving a Hurst family member and a supporter of one of the victims' happened outside the courtroom shortly after the jury was sent out to deliberate. It prompted an elevated police presence for the reading of the verdict.

Sentencing submissions are scheduled for Jan. 19, with sentencing scheduled to take place Jan. 29.

Hurst remains behind bars. Last month, he was sentenced to six months in jail following a week-long trial that ended with him being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

Those charges relate to incidents between 2017 and 2020, mostly in Wellington North, involving the unwanted touching of women’s buttocks and breasts.

In June, Hurst was given two years less a day of house arrest, as well as three years probation after he was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and three counts of committing an indecent act.