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Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard guilty of sexually assaulting young woman, not guilty on counts related to teen fan

Warning: Contains graphic content.

A jury has found Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard guilty of raping a young woman in 2016 but not guilty of raping a 16-year-old fan and sexually touching her when she was 15 after six days of deliberations.

Hoggard, 37, was charged in 2018 with two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one count of sexual touching of a person under the age of 16.

After the verdict, the Crown sought to revoke Hoggard’s bail given the seriousness of the charge. While Superior Justice Gillian Roberts agreed he likely faces a prison term, she allowed him to remain on bail pending sentencing. However, she said he would require a surety and a significant amount of money pledged.

The trial centered on consent. Both complainants testified they said “no” and “stop” as they cried and resisted Hoggard as he pinned them down, slapped them and violently raped them. Hoggard maintained he had a “passionate,” casual sexual encounter with each complainant and that he was sure they were consenting.

The jury began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon and twice told the judge they were deadlocked on “some counts.” After being urged to continue to reach unanimous verdicts on all counts, the jury spent more than a day listening again to the testimony of each complainant about the events in the hotel room and afterwards, and some of Hoggard’s testimony.

The jury also asked questions about how to weigh the words and actions of the complainant in considering whether she consented, while keeping in mind the instruction of the judge not to rely on stereotypical assumptions about how an “ideal victim” would act during or after being sexually assaulted.

It is a question that some lawyers say strike at the heart of the challenge of deciding sexual assault cases that hinge on consent and the task of deciding if a complainant is credible and reliable.

Roberts told the jury it is not an error to arrive at a factual conclusion that may reflect a stereotype if the factual conclusion is based in evidence.

During the four-week trial, the teenage fan, now a woman in her early 20s, tested she had been a huge fan of the Canadian pop-rock band since she was a child. When she was 12, she and her parents met Hoggard after a concert and he gave her parents his cellphone number and free tickets to an upcoming show, she said.

When she was 15 she got his number off her mother’s phone, and told Hoggard at a meet-and-greet in April 2016 that she had it, she said. She tested he told her to use the number sometime and they began messaging. He arranged for her to attend a Hedley concert in Toronto soon after, on April 29, 2016, at the Air Canada Center (now Scotiabank Arena) with two friends. She alleged that he groped her backstage while taking photos and tried to kiss her neck. Hoggard denied this happened, but admitted that he knew she was 15 at the time.

The next day she said he messaged her: “I wish you stayed. I want you in this bed so bad.” A screenshot of the text was shown to the jury.

Hoggard agreed when he took the stand that he was sexually interested in the complainant at the time but maintained that he knew the age of consent in Canada is 16 and that he made sure he knew her age because he “just wanted to be responsible and not break the law.”

Over the summer during which she turned 16, they exchanged romantic and sexual messages, including nude photographs. The complainant said she was “infatuated” with Hoggard who told her he loved her, that he wanted her to have his babies and to go traveling with him — things he tested he didn’t mean.

“Mr. Hoggard is not on trial for breaking hearts or disrespecting women,” Hoggard’s lawyer Megan Savard said in closing arguments, describing his actions as “not pretty” but legal.

The complainant said Hoggard sent a car to bring her from a friend’s home in the GTA on Sept. 30, 2016 — she knew her mother wouldn’t approve — but denied she was going to meet him to have sex. She said she thought they’d have lunch and sightsee in Toronto.

The other complainant, a woman then in her early 20s, tested she met Hoggard on Tinder in Ottawa when he was in town for a We Day performance in November 2016. They began exchanging explicit sexual messages and planned to meet in Toronto to have sex.

Both women tested Hoggard changed completely from the kind, sweet person they expected once they were in the hotel rooms.

He went from “this person who makes you believe this fairy tale about love and romance and softness and gentleness to this monster of a human who has no compassion and no empathy,” the teen complainant said.

He became a “psychopath,” the Ottawa woman said.

“He was crazy,” she said. “His eyes were absolutely terrifying.”

During deliberations, the jury asked whether Hoggard, a rock star and celebrity, was in a position of power or authority over the complainants in a way that could affect consent or the age of consent. They were told he was not.

The jury was allowed to consider the similarities between the evidence of both complainants and whether it would “defy coincidence” for two people who have said they do not know each other and have never spoken to have described such similar details.

Some of the similarities the jury could have considered: they both said Hoggard pinned them down while vaginally, orally and anally raping them, that he forcibly spat in their mouths, slapped them, called them degrading terms, restricted their breathing, and ignored their crying and pleas of “stop” and “you are hurting me”; they both said that afterwards he reverted to his old self, and said he’d had a great time and couldn’t wait to see them again; they also both described physical injuries including bleeding and bruises.

Savard argued that many of the similarities could be explained by Hoggard’s typical pattern of consensual sex, which included spitting, “love tapping” and name-calling. She suggested the complainants could have left at any time, or used their phones to get help and that the evidence of physical injuries is unreliable.

Both complainants said they were afraid of Hoggard and that they were not acting rationally under the traumatic circumstances. They both said they told close friends they had been sexually assaulted and both went to the doctor within weeks. The teen’s best friend tested she saw blood in the complainant’s underwear. A friend of the Ottawa woman testified she saw bruising on the complainant’s pelvic area.

Their medical records from the doctor visits say they reported being sexually assaulted but the records do not mention any injuries.

Both said they did not plan to report what happened to the police at the time.

The two complainants testified they went to the police more than a year later in spring 2018, though the jury did not hear that at the time several people were accusing Hoggard of sexual misconduct on Twitter. The Ottawa complainant first did an anonymous interview with CBC, which the teen complainant said she was sent but didn’t read the details of.

Hoggard tested he could not recall exactly what happened in the hotel room with each complainant but maintained that he was sure they both consented through both non-verbal and verbal cues and that it was fun, exciting and “passionate.” He denied choking one complainant—she tested she thought she was going to die—or pushing one complainant’s face into pillows. He tested that the encounters were not memorable and that he frequently had casual sex with women as part of his “rock star lifestyle” while touring with Hedley.

Crown prosecutor Jill Witkin argued it is convenient that Hoggard could not recall any specific details about how he obtained consent about the unusual sexual acts. She described him as an “entitled, sexual opportunist” who did not care if the complainants said no or resisted, and said there is no credible reason for either complainant to lie.

In her closing arguments Savard stressed inconsistencies or contradictions in the evidence of each complainant. She said the teen complainant could not have had her friend call and pretend to be her manager calling her in for work as a pretence for leaving the hotel room early as she tested, because her cellphone records only show a phone call to her friend made at 1:26 pm, after the limo driver’s records said the drive home had started. The Crown argued the complainant was clear about the plan she focused on to escape, even if she could not recall exact details of how it happened, and that the limo driver had no actual memory of when exactly they left.

Savard also argued the Ottawa woman lied about needing stitches in her vagina in a phone call to Hoggard that he secretly recorded, and that the jury could not trust her to tell the truth.

The Crown argued that the woman’s testimony about the sexual assault was clear. And in the emotional phone call where she told Hoggard he pushed her “to the point where it was just so painful” after she said tried to say no, she tested she said she needed stitches to scare him into acknowledging what he’d done and apologizing. Her medical records from five days after the alleged sexual assault state she was concerned about vaginal tearing.

Outside the jury’s presence, Justice Roberts expressed skepticism over the defense argument that the women had a motive to make up sexual assaults because they regretted the sexual encounters and believed claiming sexual assault would garner more sympathy with the close friends and family they needed for support.

Savard argued that the complainants were upset because Hoggard said he ended the encounters earlier than planned after the sex was over, and that he recalled the Ottawa woman rolling her eyes at him.

It seemed like “classic myth-based reasoning,” Roberts said, referring to the misconception that women lie about sexual assault because they regret consensual sex. It also doesn’t square with Hoggard’s testimony that he had highly enjoyable and “passionate” sex with both complainants, she observed.

Roberts especially found the suggestion that the teen complainant made up a sexual assault to get support and understanding from her ex-boyfriend to have little air of reality because the complainant said she never told her ex-boyfriend about being sexually assaulted.

In her legal instructions, Justice Roberts warned the jury they could not convict Hoggard because they found his sexual preferences, his admitted behavior with the teen complainant, or his admission of cheating on his partners to be distasteful.

She also instructed the jury that consent cannot be given in advance and that they could not find that a woman is less worthy of belief or more likely to have consented because she exchanged sexual messages with the accused in advance.

Both complainants described experiencing serious psychological trauma in the wake of being sexually assaulted — something the jury could consider in addition to physical injuries when determining if Hoggard caused them bodily harm.

The teen complainant said she had nightmares and panic attacks and would wake up believing Hoggard was in her bedroom. Her mother said the complainant became withdrawn and could not sleep without a light on.

The Ottawa complainant said she thinks about what happened daily and what she could have done differently. She told the jury she had blocked out details — like the 15-minute call — because she needed to do so to survive.

Earlier this year, Hoggard was charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm in relation to a third female complainant who is not part of this trial. The alleged sexual assault took place in June 2016 in Kirkland Lake, where Hedley was playing at a music festival. He has denied the allegation is true.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence or abuse, you can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 416 863 0511 or 1 866 863 0511 or text #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone.

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