WINNIPEG – A sexual assault charge against a former Winnipeg city councillor has been stayed.
Russ Wyatt, 49, was arrested in July 2018 after what police described as a serious sexual assault six months earlier.
Wyatt’s lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, said prosecutors decided to stay the charges and his client is relieved.
“He is thrilled,” Roitenberg said. “To have something like this be alleged about you and against your good name, and to have that hanging over your head for over a year, and to finally have that obstacle removed for you … is a huge relief to him.”
Roitenberg did not say why the charge was dropped and the prosecution service did not immediately respond to calls.
Wyatt, whose trial was to go ahead Friday, has always maintained his innocence.
Police revealed few details when Wyatt was charged. Investigators said the complainant was a woman known to Wyatt, but not his wife, and not a city employee. Wyatt represented the Winnipeg’s Transcona ward from 2002 to 2018.
He took a leave of absence from city council early last year. A few months later he revealed that he had entered a rehab program for substance abuse.
He returned to council that May and soon after came out as bisexual during a Pride parade rally at the legislature.
Roitenberg said his client was taking steps to change his life and improve his health during that time and was shocked by the allegations.
“He was taking care of all of those things and then this happens,” Roitenberg said. “Mr. Wyatt is very much looking forward to the next chapter of his life without having to deal with this.”
Following the allegations, a motion was tabled to have the province amend the city’s charter making it mandatory for councillors who have been charged with a serious criminal offence to take a paid leave of absence. Under the current charter, removal only comes after a conviction.
Wyatt did not seek re-election last fall, although he did briefly float the idea of running for mayor.