EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers.
A trial for a man accused of molesting the 14-year-old granddaughter of a close friend took place on Wednesday, with the teen describing the incidents in detail for the court and the man adamantly denying the allegations.
The 61-year-old man pleaded not guilty in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench to two counts of sexual interference, making sexually explicit material available to a child and communicating with the purpose of obtaining sexual services from someone under the age of 18 during the month of August 2018.
The Brandon Sun is not naming the man due to a publication ban put in place to protect the identity of the girl, who is now 16 years old.
The girl testified the man was a close friend of her grandmother, and she and her sisters would stay with his family often as they had respite with them.
"He was like a father to me ... he looked after me," the girl said.
The first incident occurred while the two were camping one morning, the girl said, after the man asked her about a rumour going around town that she was performing oral sex on boys in her school in the washroom.
After telling the man she "wouldn’t do something like that," the girl testified the two had a conversation about parties, masturbation, drugs and rape.
"Why were you talking about that with him?" Crown attorney Jeanelle Allard asked.
"He was trying to explain that boys could easily manipulate girls in that situation, like at a party with drugs," the girl said.
After cleaning up and going to the office to pay for the campsite, the girl said the conversation picked back up and the man asked her to take her shirt and bra off.
"I thought he was joking at first, so I stayed quiet and sort of shook my head ‘no,’" she testified. "He asked me again."
The girl said she complied the second time, and the man came up behind her, grabbed her breast and slipped his hand down her pants.
"I wanted him to stop, I didn’t do anything though," the girl said. "I was kind of in shock, I didn’t know what was going on, to be honest."
The man then undid his pants and asked the girl if she had ever seen or touched a man’s penis, she testified. When she said no, he grabbed her hand and forced her to touch him.
The second incident occurred approximately a week or two later at the man’s property, the girl said, while she was helping him build something in the barn.
The conversation about masturbation and parties came up again, the girl testified, and the man pulled out his phone and showed the girl different sexually explicit videos.
The man stopped playing the videos when someone came into the barn, she said, but continued once they were alone again.
The man then pulled out a $50 bill and told the girl if she performed oral sex on him he would give her the money, the girl testified.
When the girl refused, she said the man called her a ‘good girl’ and they continued grabbing material for what they were building.
"It made me feel very uncomfortable and wonder why he would do something like that," she said.
Defence lawyer Andrew Synyshyn questioned the girl on inconsistencies between her testimony in court and the statement she gave police, which included the order in which things occurred in the camper and the amount of money the man offered to her for oral sex.
Synyshyn also asked the girl about an incident that also occurred in August, when the man got angry about the condition of the home the girl was living in — which he was renting to the girl’s grandmother — and threatened to evict them.
"I’m going to suggest to you that you were angry with him for threatening to kick you and your grandmother out," Synyshyn said.
"No I wasn’t angry with him," the girl said.
Toward the end of the girl’s testimony, she admitted to being "a little upset" about the man threatening to kick them out.
"I’m going to put it to you that you wanted to get back at him and ensure he couldn’t kick you out," Synyshyn said of the allegations.
"No. I’ve been telling the truth, because that’s what actually happened," the girl said.
The man also testified in court, denying the accusations he ever touched the girl, showed her sexually explicit videos or offered her money for sexual acts.
The man said they did have a discussion about the rumours going around about her after he was approached in a store by three men who told him she had been performing oral sex on boys in the school washroom.
"I almost punched him in the face ... I told him to f--k off," the man said. "I went right back to the house and told her grandmother."
The girl’s grandmother asked the man to have a conversation with her, the man said, which he agreed to do.
They discussed the rumours as well as partying, including drug and alcohol use.
"What was your concern about these rumours?" Synyshyn asked.
"That she was going to end up dead. That she was going to go to a party somewhere and not come home," the man said.
This happened the same month the man lost his temper on the family after finding the newly-renovated home he was renting to them was in disarray, he said.
He threatened to kick them out if it was not cleaned up.
"I called them a bunch of f--king pigs ... I used language I probably shouldn’t have, but I was that pissed," the man said. "They took offence to that, I don’t blame them for taking offence to that."
The man went to visit family in Ontario for a week at the beginning of September, he testified, and came home to discover allegations had been made against him.
"What was going through your mind when you were speaking with police?" Synyshyn asked.
"I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what the hell was going on," the man said.
During cross-examination, Allard commented that the man corroborated a lot of what the girl had testified, to which the man agreed that he did.
"The only parts you didn’t corroborate are the parts that could get you in trouble," Allard said.
"The parts that were lies," the man said.
In his closing arguments, Synyshyn said the court was left with a he-said, she-said situation where there are significant inconsistencies.
"Ultimately we submit (this man) has testified in a straightforward, candid, consistent and truthful manner," Synyshyn said. "You have had the opportunity to hear his own version of events, and I would suggest to you that he testified very candidly."
Synyshyn asked the court to consider what evidence was not heard, such as any evidence from the man’s cellphone — which was seized and allegedly sent away for forensic testing.
"Had there been some evidence that pornography had been accessed at his residence by his phone in or around the end of August 2018 the Crown would have, with all due respect, not shut up about it," Synyshyn said.
Allard argued there shouldn’t be a lot of weight placed on the lack of cellphone evidence, adding there were a number of factors that could have contributed to its absence.
The girl was also straightforward in her testimony and came across as honest, Allard said, denying any motivation to fabricate the allegations.
Inconsistencies in the girl’s testimony can be explained by the fact that she was a child at the time of the assault, Allard said, adding that the main facts of the incidents remained consistent.
"The only points of cross-examination that she was a bit shaken on were certain peripheral details," Allard said. "She was not shaken at all with respect to the major incidents that she was alleging."
Justice Scott Abel reserved his decision.
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