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Teen uses accused's phone to get help

ALLEGATIONS a man drove a teen stranger outside the city, threatened her at knifepoint and sexually assaulted her are illogical given he showed her proof of who he was and it was his phone used to message for help, court heard Monday.

Farrell Francis was granted bail in provincial court after being arrested late Saturday and accused of sexual assault with a weapon, sexual interference and breaching probation.

In what defence lawyer Brett Gladstone described as "solely a credibility case," the 51-year-old Long Plain First Nation health services driver is accused of things that "don't make sense," he told Judge Rocky Pollack.

According to prosecutors, the suspect offered two 15-year-old girls a ride from an inner-city Chicken Delight around 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Crown alleges the man dropped one of the two off at home in the North End then produced a kitchen knife, drove the other girl north of the city and groped her in the backseat of the minivan he was driving.

The girl fought off the suspect and said she had alerted her friend to call police through Facebook, prosecutor Bruce Sychuk said.

A message came in on his phone from the other teen saying she was with police, Sychuk said. The suspect drove back to the city and dropped the teen off unharmed, Sychuk told Pollack.

The girls told police the suspect showed ID, and that they added him as a Facebook friend after accepting the ride from him, Sychuk said.

Messages about police being called were sent through his phone; the teen alleged he turned it off "in case the police are tracing it," said Sychuk.

Francis was arrested around 9:30 p.m. and later detained at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. His only criminal conviction is for failing to attend court, for which he was placed on unsupervised probation in August.

Francis is a "well-respected" elder in Long Plain, has the support of relatives and has worked as the equivalent of a Handi-transit driver in the community for the last four years, said Gladstone in urging Pollack to release him.

Pollack did so, placing Francis conditions including not being alone in a vehicle with any child under 16.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Comments are not accepted on this story because they might prejudice a case before the courts.

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