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This article was published 11/10/2017 (252 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A man who pleaded guilty to video recording a 17-year-old girl undressing without her consent, only to torture her five years later by threatening to release photos, is now awaiting sentence.
"Apart from feeling vulnerable and exposed, I was terrified," the victim said in a statement. "I have never in my life sent a picture of myself in anything less than what I wear in public, to anyone … I felt so trapped by this person who had complete control over the situation and the power to monopolize me."
Blair McFarlane, 26, pleaded guilty to voyeurism, distributing intimate images without consent and extortion in Brandon provincial court on Tuesday.
Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup told the court that in July 2010, McFarlane, who was 19 years old at the time, set up his cellphone in his family’s washroom and recorded the victim undressing before taking a shower.
Nothing was done with the footage until five years later, when McFarlane started contacting the victim and her sister through a number of fake email accounts in July 2015.
"Is this you? If it is, just respond with yes … and don’t say anything or I’ll know and it will go on the internet," McFarlane wrote in one of the emails to the victim. Attached was a screen-captured photo of her in her bra.
The victim immediately reported the email to Brandon police, however, due to the background of the photo being edited out, police were investigating in the dark, Lonstrup said.
McFarlane then contacted the victim’s sister with multiple fake email addresses, sending four screen-captured photos — the same photo of the victim in her bra and three different ones that showed her naked — with a message telling her to respond if she didn’t want to see her sister all over the internet.
In another email to the victim’s sister under another fake name, McFarlane once again threatened the release of the victim’s photos, but also demanded the sister send a photo of herself in her bra.
"It’s so easy to make sure all her male BFFs have (the photos). Public fan pages are fantastic for that," McFarlane wrote.
"Throughout this period the victim was obviously aware what was going on … she was sick with worry," Lonstrup said. "It turned her life upside down."
Eventually McFarlane contacted the victim as himself, telling her someone had sent him copies of her photos and that he could help track the perpetrator down.
While telling the victim multiple convoluted stories, McFarlane tried to dissuade her from going to the police — saying it was a "waste of taxpayers’ money," that the sender didn’t do anything he could be arrested for, and that he was on the trail of the sender so police weren’t needed.
At one point, McFarlane tried to convince the victim to send more nude photos in an alleged attempt to figure out where they were taken.
"I want to CSI this s—t. We need to recreate (the photos)," McFarlane wrote.
The victim became suspicious early on in her conversations with McFarlane, and reported him to police as a possible suspect.
A search warrant was eventually executed at McFarlane’s home and police recovered the 21-minute video, as well as eight screen-captured pictures from the video.
"(McFarlane’s) behaviour devastated her, mentally and physically. She had anxiety attacks, panic attacks, insomnia, tension headaches, loss of appetite and energy ... Young people at her age are supposed to go onto social media to share pictures and funny stories — she was going on social media compulsively to see if this person … had finally made good on his threats," Lonstrup said. "At her lowest moments, she engaged in self-blame and thought about ending her life."
The victim added in her statement that she is still "living in fear" — constantly feeling she is being watched, developing an intense fear of being followed and habitually checking washrooms and change rooms for cameras and wiring.
Defence lawyer Danny Gunn said McFarlane had a crush on the victim at the time the video was taken, telling her she was beautiful and writing songs for her.
McFarlane revisited the video at a time in his life that he was in an emotionally abusive relationship, Gunn said, and was looking to regain some sort of connection with the victim.
"My client is utterly mortified that he did this, that he scared her, that he broke her trust, that he manipulated her," Gunn said. "He’s been struggling emotionally and is shocked and horrified at what he’s done."
Gunn added that neither the video or photos were posted online or distributed to anyone else other than the victim and her sister.
"He’s done everything he can to make things right — he’s plead guilty, he’s apologized, he’s gone to counselling … incarceration sometimes detracts from rehabilitation, and if the court is considering incarceration it should be minimal," Gunn said.
The Crown asked Judge Robert M. Heinrichs to consider 15 to 18 months of jail time, followed by three years of probation under strict conditions.
Gunn argued that 30 days in custody is enough to get the point across, but recommended that McFarlane — being considered a low risk to reoffend — would better serve his time through probation or house arrest.
Heinrichs will decide on McFarlane’s sentencing on a later court date.
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