Former med student sentenced to three years and nine months for raping sleeping woman

Former med student sentenced to three years and nine months for raping sleeping woman by Yolande Cole, August 28, 2019, Calgary Herald

A former medical student has been sentenced to three years and nine months of incarceration for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman.

During a sentencing decision for Prachur Shrivastava, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Jolaine Antonio said Wednesday there was “no excuse” for sexually assaulting an unconscious stranger.

Antonio said the fact that the victim, who can’t be identified due to a publication ban, was “functionally unconscious and therefore at her most vulnerable” demands a strong deterrent message.

Shrivastava was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs after Antonio delivered the sentence.

The 27-year-old, who was 22 at the time of the offence, was found guilty of sexual assault last year for raping the stranger at a friend’s home in May 2014. The victim had gone out for drinks with a group of friends and fell asleep at the house.

“I allow a small measure of mitigation for Mr. Shrivastava’s youth,” Antonio said. “I give no mitigating or aggravating effect to his lack of prior convictions, lack of remorse, loss of reputation or altered career path. Mr. Shrivastava’s character does not mitigate the gravity of the offence, or his degree of responsibility.”

Defence lawyer Dale Fedorchuk had initially proposed a sentence of 90 days imprisonment and two years probation; a position that he later revised to eight to 12 months imprisonment. The Crown had asked for a sentence of four to five years.

Fedorchuk had emphasized in his arguments that his client’s character is “not merely good, but exemplary,” and argued that this should justify a lenient sentence, Antonio noted in her written decision.

“Acknowledging that the evidence and sentencing materials do little to explain why the offence was committed, defence counsel speculates that Mr. Shrivastava may have felt the pressure of his achievements and reputation,” the document states. “He suggests the offence was a ‘stupid decision’ to seize an ‘opportunity’, flowing from alcohol and temptation.”

Antonio said she finds no place “for the abstract notion that good deeds can create a bank of credit to be drawn on sentencing.

“Therefore, I am unable to treat good, or exemplary, character as mitigating,” she said. “Mr. Shrivastava’s degree of responsibility is high. The only factor that tempers it somewhat is the fact that he had consumed alcohol, though its effects were not debilitating and did not undermine the deliberateness of the offence.”

Antonio described the offence as “predatory” and said the conduct “must not be minimized or rationalized away, least of all by reference to ‘temptation’ or ‘opportunity.’ ”

“I emphatically reject any innuendo that a woman’s body, or the body of any victim, is a natural sexual ‘temptation’ that an offender might simply be unable to resist,” she wrote, adding that while she rejected the “rape-myth theory advanced by defence counsel,” she did not use it against Shrivastava in determining a fit sentence.

The judge concluded that rehabilitation has not yet been effected, because Shrivastava “showed no insight into his behaviour, and instead continued to minimize his authorship of the offence.”

Shrivastava had been a medical student for a year and a half before he was charged with the offence, when he was placed on academic leave. He went on to complete a master’s degree in biotechnology in 2018.

The judge noted in her written decision that the “significant impact” of the offence was apparent on the victim at trial. In an impact statement, the victim described “her constant fear and distrust of people, her troubles with sleeping, and her ongoing depression and anxiety.”

‘Exemplary’ medical student who raped unconscious woman caved to temptation, lawyer argues, Prachur Shrivastava was found guilty last year of a Calgary sexual assault by Meghan Grant, July 18, 2019, CBC News

A former medical student who raped an unconscious woman “availed himself of an opportunity” he could not resist due to the stress of “leading an exemplary life,” his lawyer has argued.

Prachur Shrivastava, 27, was convicted of sexual assault following a trial last year.

On Thursday, Alberta Justice Jolaine Antonio heard a second round of sentencing submissions from Crown and defence and will make her decision next month on how much time Shrivastava should spend behind bars.

Shrivastava was partying with fellow medical students and others in Calgary in 2014 when he raped a young woman who had passed out in a friend’s living room.

CBC News is calling the victim Laura because a court-ordered publication ban protects her identity.

Medical student’s rape conviction first of its kind in Calgary

‘Tempted in that moment’
In Alberta, the prison-time starting point for a major sexual assault — one that involves penetration — is three years.

Initially, defence lawyer Dale Fedorchuk asked the judge to send his client to jail for 90 days on weekends, but on Thursday, he submitted a new position of about nine months in jail.

Fedorchuk said people who are held to high standards like his client make human errors, giving the examples of Bill Cosby and Tiger Woods.

Shrivastava’s actions were a case of “drunken stupidity,” argued Fedorchuk, who said his client was “faced with an opportunity, tempted in that moment” and made “a stupid decision to cave to temptation.”

‘Exceptional people do not rape’
Prosecutor Tiffany Dwyer proposed a four- to five-year sentence and took issue with Fedorchuk’s classification of his client as exceptional.

“Exceptional people do not rape unconscious women,” said Dwyer. “The fact that he’s educated and his parents are wealthy does not change what he did.”

“Incapacity of a woman is not an ‘opportunity’ … it wasn’t an opportunity, it was a choice. He is a predator.”

Shrivastava had to withdraw from the University of Toronto’s medicine program when charges were laid but the school did allow him to complete a master’s degree in biotechnology. He is now employed by a California-based medical technology firm and has two job offers.

Shrivastava apologizes
Fedorchuk pointed out to the judge that those job offers are from women.

“There is a significant and meaningful negative impact this is going to have on his life going forward,” said Fedorchuk, who noted that even if his client gets a pardon or a record suspension, “anyone with the internet” will learn about Shrivastava’s conviction.

Shrivastava was given the chance to speak at the conclusion of sentencing submissions, offering an apology.

“I never meant for this to happen,” he said. “I hope I can contribute and become a contributing member of society as I have done in the past.”

His victim does not believe the apology is genuine.

“The rapist chose to make this his life,” said Laura in a phone interview with CBC News. “At least he had a choice in making this his life. I don’t.”

“If he honestly felt any remorse, he would have pled guilty. Instead, he tortured me by playing innocent.”

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