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Australia US jazz musician avoids conviction for indecently assaulting woman at James Morrison Academy

08:16  05 august  2020
08:16  05 august  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Australian jazz musician James Morrison has written a character reference for an American saxophonist who indecently assaulted a woman while studying at a prestigious South Australian music academy . Key points: Matthew Allen Harkins was a student at the James Morrison Academy

This video is about Generations in Jazz 2015 - James Morrison Academy Jazz Orchestra - US .

a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Matthew Harkins outside court after he pleaded guilty to indecent assault. (ABC News) © Provided by ABC NEWS Matthew Harkins outside court after he pleaded guilty to indecent assault. (ABC News)

An American saxophonist has escaped conviction for indecently assaulting a woman while studying at a prestigious South Australian music academy.

Matthew Allen Harkins, 27, was a student at the James Morrison Academy of Music in Mount Gambier when he took a consensual sexual encounter too far in August 2018.

"It was not a transient sexual assault — the surrounding circumstances led to confusion on your part as to the issue of consent," District Court Judge Rauf Soulio said during sentencing.

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A jazz musician charged with raping a fellow student of a prestigious music academy run by James Morrison had his bail adjusted so he could tour with His application was successful and on October 19 he performed on stage with the academy ’s orchestra and Morrison at the Jazz Lab in Brunswick.

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"You pleaded guilty on the basis that you were reckless as to that issue."

Harkins pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault after prosecutors dropped two counts of rape.

Judge Soulio today placed the jazz musician on a two-year good behaviour bond and refused to record a conviction.

Andrew Culshaw, for Harkins, told the court that his client wanted to return to Maine, in the United States, to pursue a professional music career but wanted to supplement that income by becoming a teacher.

"A conviction would harm Mr Harkins's [employment] prospects substantially," he said.

He said a letter from an American lawyer expressed the view that it would be difficult for Harkins to secure registration in the US as a teacher with a conviction for indecent assault.

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James Mustafa, an Australian Jazz Bell Award winner from Melbourne, was charged with the offence by Victoria Police sexual crimes detectives. One female musician , who did not wish to be named, told The Age she met Mr Mustafa when he was on a scholarship at Monash University.

But prosecutors urged the court to impose a conviction, saying it would be important for any prospective employer to know.

The court heard the victim felt humiliated, violated and frightened after the ordeal.

"She said it was a difficult decision to proceed with the charge given the outcome would be unknown," Judge Soulio said.

He said the victim wrote there would be "no winners" in this case and acknowledged that it would not be satisfying to see Harkins jailed.

The court was told that renowned Australian jazz musician James Morrison wrote a letter of support for Harkins.

"He was at pains to point out that he abhors any kind of behaviour that is disrespectful, harmful or violent towards any other person," Judge Soulio said.

"He said he was prepared to provide the letter of support for you based on his knowledge of your character.

"He described you as professional in the way you approached your craft and always respectful to those whom you performed."

At a previous court hearing, Harkins said he would return to the United States as soon as he was sentenced.

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