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Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard faces years in prison for sexually assaulting young Ottawa woman


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Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard faces years in prison for sexually assaulting young Ottawa woman

Jacob Hoggard is facing years in prison for sexually assaulting an Ottawa woman in her early 20s, regardless of how much of a public danger a judge finds the former lead singer of Hedley poses to the public.

The Crown is seeking a sentence of six to seven years in prison, arguing that Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts should find that Hoggard, 38, repeatedly raped the young woman in downtown Toronto hotel room over hours in November 2016.

He also held her down, dragged her off the bed, slapped her, spit on her and choked her until she thought she would die, the Crown said. Choking or strangulation is considered an aggravating factor because it is inherently dangerous and brutal, prosecutor Jill Witkin noted.

“This was a trusting intimate relationship that began online and culminated in a private, personal meeting where the victim was clearly vulnerable,” she said.

The sentence should also reflect the serious physical and psychological damage endured by the victim, Witkin said.

“Part of me died that day,” the woman herself said in her victim impact statement. Her identity is under a publication ban available in sexual assault cases.

The defence is arguing Hoggard should get three to four years in prison. Hoggard’s lawyer, Megan Savard, said Justice Roberts should find Hoggard pushed the woman “past her limits,” as she said in a recorded phone call, and knew she wasn’t consenting or was reckless about whether she was consenting to during vaginal intercourse. However, Roberts should not find that Hoggard anally raped her or choked her, Savard said.

The woman’s evidence was unreliable or exaggerated in parts and the judge should only rely on the parts of her testimony that had corroboration, whether through the recorded phone call after the sexual assault or in what her friends recalled, Savard argued.

A “psychiatric, sexological and risk assessment” conducted after his conviction in June and submitted in court by the defence, concluded that Hoggard is low risk for engaging in the behaviour that led to his conviction, in part because his life as a celebrity is over.

Part of the report, by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hy Bloom, included phallometric testing typically used to test for pedophilia to see if Hoggard had a preference for coercive sexual activity. He did not. He also scored in the range of a normal person on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, has a normal capacity for empathy, and was found to be at a low risk for sexual reoffending on a risk assessment tool.

Crown prosecutor Kelly Slate, however, noted the phallometric testing has limitations when used to detect a preference for coercive sexual activity. She added that Bloom only interviewed Hoggard, his wife, his family and close friends who are all supportive of him. He was not able to speak to Hoggard’s former long-term partners or any of the 200 or so women Hoggard said he had casual sex with over his time with Hedley, of which up to 70 per cent were fans.

His wife’s view was that Hoggard was inundated with attention from women and that he sometimes sought to gratify his “human nature” and seek “love and comfort” with them. “It’s crazy … women just go nuts …. I know what fame can do to a regular person,” she said.

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Slate also pointed out that, in the report, Hoggard maintains his innocence and has not taken responsibility or shown remorse for the sexual assault — only for his infidelity and “cavalier” consensual sexual exploits.

And while he is no longer a rock star, he remains charming and capable of the manipulation that both complainants in the trial experienced, Slate said. Hoggard was acquitted of groping a 15-year-old fan and of raping her when she was 16.

Hoggard admitted that he sexually pursued the young fan and faked a romance with her to get her to sleep with him. He told Bloom that he was worried about “how young” the teen fan was, but that she was “very gorgeous and looked 19.”

Hoggard “bristled” at and rejected the suggestion by Bloom that he placed some women on a pedestal and others, who he used for sexual gratification much lower, and Bloom admitted he did not have enough information to form any conclusions about this, Slate noted.

While Hoggard provided 52 character letters to the court describing him as a family man, dog-lover and grower of tomatoes, it is not uncommon for this to happen, Witkin said, because sexual violence often takes place behind closed doors.

Being involved in charitable activity and a prosocial life can act as a “cloak” for this kind of crime, she said.

The woman who was sexually assaulted is now suing Hoggard for $2.8 million, an amount Savard said he might be paying off for the rest of his life through his current work as a carpenter. She argued that the more years he spends in prison, the more time he will be unable to work and pay off whatever amount is awarded.

Hoggard has also lost his music career and has been publicly humiliated, effectively “branded” with an imaginary sex-offender label on his forehead for the rest of his life, Savard said.

When asked if he wanted to speak at the end of the hearing, Hoggard unmuted himself — he appeared by Zoom from Vancouver where he has remained on bail — and declined.

“No, thank you, Your Honour. I’m going to pass on that,” he said.

A decision is expected on Thursday.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence or abuse, you can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 416 863 0511 or 1 866 863 0511 or text #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone. More resources are available here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/sexual-violence

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

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