Accused pimp wants to face step-daughter in court

Counsel for Penticton man looks to block request to have alleged victim testify behind a screen

In an emotional outburst in court Friday, a man accused of pimping his teenaged step-daughter became angry when he learned the Crown had applied to have the girl testify at trial with the help of a support person.

Holding up a handful of papers, the man said via videoconference in Penticton provincial court that she had sent cards, poems and photos to him in prison.

“This (girl) needs a support person?” asked the burly, bearded man, who was 49 at the time of his arrest in July 2011, and is charged with 10 offences, including sexual assault and living off the avails of prostitution of a person under 18.

Neither he nor the alleged victim, who’s now 18, can be named due to a publication ban to protect her identity.

Crown counsel Deb Drissell said the girl is vulnerable and would benefit from having a victim services worker nearby to steady her during the four-day trial that starts May 28.

Defence counsel James Pennington agreed to the application, but did oppose, however, a second Crown request to have the girl testify either via closed-circuit TV or from behind a screen so she won’t have to face the accused directly.

The hearing continued Tuesday when an RCMP victim services support worker testified that the girl is “very afraid to come to court,” because she is intimidated by the accused.

“She said just looking at him scares her,” said the support worker, who asked that she not be named to protect her safety.

Under cross-examination by Pennington, the support worker was unable to say if the girl provided reasons why she fears for her safety, nor was she able to immediately provide notes from her meetings with the girl.

That prompted Pennington to ask for another adjournment while the notes are reproduced. He said allowing the alleged victim to testify behind a screen or by video is an “extraordinary remedy,” and that his client is entitled to full disclosure.

Judge Greg Koturbash put the matter over until this afternoon, when he will decide whether the Crown application should be granted based on what the court has already heard, or if the matter should be put over again until the support worker’s notes are made available.

Three other men are charged with procuring the girl’s services in Penticton near the downtown soup kitchen.

Benjamin Wolfe, one of the accused johns, agreed to both Crown requests last week. His case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next month. Due to the publication ban, the court records are sealed for all of the accused in the case, and it’s unclear when the other two accused johns, Rick Brian Wyatt and Baldev Singh Toor, are due back in court.