Guilty is the verdict for a Penticton man accused of sexually assaulting and pimping out his teenage stepdaughter.
“Surprise, surprise, surprise,” said the clearly agitated 47-year-old man from the prisoner’s box before the judge even finished speaking.
The man, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban to protect the teenage girl, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 14, sexual interference of a person under 16, two counts of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under 18, sexual exploitation, parent of guardian procuring sexual activity and aiding a person to engage in prostitution.
The girl, who is now 18, said the sexual abuse from her stepfather started around 2006 when she was just 12 years old while they lived in Osoyoos, and carried on while they lived in Okanagan Falls and then later in Penticton. But she said it was when they moved to Surrey for about six months that her stepfather forced her into prostitution, with it continuing when they moved back to Penticton in 2011. She said her stepfather would pick her up from school and take her to the Soupateria at lunch, where they set up business at the bus stop, he selling drugs and her prostituting and occasionally selling marijuana. The man had vehemently denied all the charges, saying while he knew of the prostitution, he felt he could do nothing to stop it because she was going to do what she wanted.
In the closing arguments heard on Wednesday, defence for the man said his client was more credible than the girl, who he called a liar. This was mainly based on the girl’s testimony that conflicted with the statement she provided police last July, when the girl said she was working on her own. Crown counsel Wendy Kavanagh brushed that off as meaningless, stating the girl was still under duress and confused because she did not want her stepfather to get in trouble and was scared of him.
Judge Gregory Korturbash agreed with the Crown, stating although the girl admitted she lied to police, he found her testimony credible as it corroborated that of other Crown witnesses.
The stepfather testified that he was best friends with the girl, and at least one other witness, who admitted to being a client of the girl, also noted a best friend-type of relationship between the pair.
“I accept that in a perverse way that (the stepfather and girl) were in fact best of friends,” said Korturbash, who also described the relationship as a parasitic one.
Korturbash said he did not believe the girl was involved in the sex trade of her own volition and believed that she was under threats from the stepfather to earn money for his drug habit.
“He was the mastermind behind the plan. He set the cost, told her how to protect herself, threatened her if she didn’t do it and set up the dates,” said Korturbash.
Kavanagh said the accused and the other defence witness, the man’s wife who said she had never seen anything inappropriate between the pair, had motive to lie. She added the couple also had opportunity for collusion through phone calls while the man was in jail, in which they admitted they spoke of the trial during these exchanges.
The judge agreed, using the example of the wife going into detail of how soundproof their Osoyoos cinder-block home was, then later in testimony bringing up how it would be impossible for anyone to hear sexual noises coming from a bedroom the girl had been in with her stepfather. Sounds that the woman’s own son testified he heard, but she dismissed. Korturbash said there was a “bias” in the wife’s statements in court that “clearly compromised her testimony.”
A pre-sentence report has been ordered for the man whose next appearance will be on Sept.19 to fix a date for sentencing. An application to vary the man’s terms of release so he could have contact with the teen girl’s mother will also be put before the courts.
“Perhaps the two of them deserve each other,” said Korturbash.