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Closing arguments heard in trial of Penticton man accused of pimping stepdaughter

A decision is expected to come Thursday afternoon in the trial of a Penticton man accused of sexually abusing and pimping out his stepdaughter.

Judge Gregory Korturbash heard closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon and told the Crown and defence he would make a decision on Thursday at 2 p.m. as he is not available until September and didn't think the accused or complainant should have to wait that long.

Defence council Jim Pennington pegged the charges as a classic he-said-she-said scenario. Pennington said in his submission his client came off as more credible because of the inconsistencies of the girl's statements to RCMP compared to what she said during the trial. A theme, he said, that was recurring throughout the trial. The girl testified she lied in her original police statement because she was still fearful of her stepfather who she claimed threatened to hurt her or loved ones if she did not prostitute herself and hand the money over to feed her stepfather's drug habit.

"Her responses to that, in my respectful submission, is an easy way out by saying she lied to the cops. At least we can establish one thing, she is a liar," said Pennington.

The court heard during the trial the family were wary of one Penticton RCMP officer in particular because his investigation into the girl's parents led to drug charges on them. That same officer was the one who took the girl's statement. Pennington said the officer reassured the girl several times that she was not in any sort of trouble by telling them the truth about her stepfather. The girl's police statements show she admitted to getting into the sex trade business on her own, she testified during the trial that was a lie.

Pennington also countered the girl's scenario of the first time she allegedly was sexually assaulted by the stepfather when they lived in Osoyoos. The girl said she was alone with her stepfather having come back from the beach before the rest of the family when it happened. The girl's mother, testifying in support of the stepfather, had told the court she weighed between 400 to 500 pounds at that time while awaiting a gastric bypass surgery and had never gone to the beach. She indicated she would have been at home and saw nothing, meanwhile the stepfather said he had only gone to the beach once in Osoyoos and that was with his own parents. Pennington argued claims of witnesses seeing the stepfather inappropriately touch or make comments about the girl in their homes in Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls by stating they had motive to lie. Defence gave various reasons including a business deal gone wrong, a stepson that didn't approve of the stepfather's tough discipline and a family friend who overstayed her welcome and had the stepfather selling cocaine that led to a falling out when the man's wife found out. These were witnesses, according to Pennington, that all "bring baggage."

Pennington said the girl was not as pure as snow and pointed out the girl said at the trial that she had been assisted in securing her own apartment and furnishings since leaving her parents.

"You know the old saying, don't bite the hand that feeds you," said Pennington.

Finally the defence said both of the girl's parents testified they held jobs while they were living in Surrey, insinuating that the stepfather would not have been around to take her out to the stroll to turn tricks in Surrey as the girl accused. He said his client was not in need of money to feed a drug habit and lived a somewhat comfortable life selling heroin and living off his wife's disability, enough so that they had big-screen televisions, video game consoles and ate from T-Bones.

Crown closing arguments

Crown counsel Wendy Kavanagh said this is a case of credibility. She submitted the stepfather should be convicted on all 10 counts because of the ample amounts of corroborating evidence.

"Despite my friends best attempt, the Crown witnesses had no motive to lie," said Kavanagh.

Crown said the girl lived a turbulent, chaotic life that saw her move to 11 different cities in 18 years with a "mother that was ill and appears not to be involved in many aspects of her life." Because of this, Kavanagh said the girl was not a healthy person.

"She testified of unthinkable acts which were really the ultimate breach of parental trust," said Kavanagh.

Witnesses described the girl as a "shy animal," withdrawn and vacant eyes during the trial. Kavanagh said since the girl's stepfather has been behind bars and moved away from her mother she has flourished and made significant strides. Crown argued the girl had been sexually abused countless times by her stepfather over a five to six year period and the frequency of these acts was an important point because they became so repetitive that they may have blurred together.

"It explains why her evidence fell generally. There was nothing unique about these events that happened over and over again," said Kavanagh.

Crown argued the girl was under extreme pressure with the threats of her stepfather, school officials questioning her activities at the Soupateria and that was apparent when the RCMP officer her family had never trusted interviewed her. Kavanagh said not to forget how embarrassing it was for her that she was not only being sexually abused but was prostituting.

Witnesses who testified for the Crown, except one, all had approached RCMP to give evidence, not the other way around. Kavanagh said this was significant because many of these people had not been in touch with the family or the girl for years and in some cases did not know one another. Yet, they told of similar situations of the girl having to go to her stepfather's bedroom at night while the mother sat at the computer and how they raised concern with the girl's mother only to be told to "mind their own business." She said their corroboration added to their credibility. One of the witnesses testified they saw the stepfather laying naked in bed with the girl who was under the covers. Another said they walked into the family's apartment at the Stardust in Penticton and saw the stepfather wearing nothing but a towel and a panicked face while sitting on the couch. The witness said he saw the girl pulling her hands away from under the man's towel and the mother had been sitting in the same room.

Kavanagh said there was significant contradiction in the stepfather and wife's testimony. While she said they were not poor, she did admit they used the food bank and were short on cash sometimes. Crown counsel said the accused and his wife had motive to lie because they wanted the man to be released so they could continue their life together.

"They communicated by telephone while he was in jail. They had ample opportunity for collusion and both admitted they spoke about the trial," said Kavanagh.

A  comment made by the stepfather on one of the phone conversations to the mother that when he was released he would tell the whole truth of what happened with the girl.

"They were not truthful, they were sculpting evidence trying to secure an acquittal. Little should be believed of what they say," said Kavanagh.

Kavanagh said the man stated he was not a "diddler" and called out those who wouldn't do anything if they knew of someone doing that. Yet, Kavanagh pointed out, the man did nothing when he knew men were paying his underage stepdaughter for sex.

"He didn't sabotage these dates with the men, he arranged them," said Kavanagh.

Crown said the man watched his stepdaughter's back, kept track of licence plates of her dates, set the cost she should charge and had arranged some dates.

Evidence was re-hashed from an undercover operator who arranged a date through the stepfather with the girl for a stag party and was told for $300 the groom and anyone at the party could engage in sexual activity. Undercover RCMP also saw the accused meeting with one john and the girl before they left for a date at a nearby apartment. Later undercover officers saw the girl hand money over to her stepfather in bills consistent with what the john said he always paid in.

"Those are the jobs a pimp does, your honour," said Kavanagh.

For more on this, check back online Thursday afternoon or in Friday's print edition.

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