Warning: Contains graphic content.
Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard likely faces more than two years in prison, a judge said Sunday night, after he was found guilty of raping a young Ottawa woman in 2016 but not guilty of raping a 16-year-old fan and sexually touching her when she was 15.
The verdicts came after six days of deliberations, during which the jury of 10 men and two women twice said they were deadlocked on “some counts” and spent much of the weekend listening back to almost all the testimony of both complainants.
Hoggard, 37, was charged in 2018 with two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one count of sexual touching of a person under the age of 16. Earlier this year, he was charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm in relation to a third female complainant who is not part of this trial. The alleged sexual assault took place in June 2016 in Kirkland Lake, where Hedley was playing at a music festival. He has denied the allegation.
After the verdict, Crown prosecutor Jill Witkin argued Hoggard’s bail should be revoked and that he should go directly to jail, given the “brazen, brutal, degrading, traumatic” offence and that he still faces a pending charge of the same nature. Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts allowed Hoggard to remain on bail, noting that he has been compliant so far and is not considered a flight risk, but said he would face much stricter conditions including requiring a surety when he returns to Vancouver and a significant amount of money pledged.
The trial centred on consent and the credibility and reliability of both complainants — a teenage fan who testified she believed she was in love with Hoggard, her favourite rock star, and an Ottawa woman in her early twenties who met Hoggard on Tinder.
The identities of both women are under publication ban available to sexual assault complainants.
Both complainants testified they said “no” and “stop” as they cried and resisted Hoggard as he pinned them down, slapped them and violently raped them. Hoggard maintained he had a “passionate,” casual sexual encounter with each complainant and that he was sure they were consenting.
The Crown successfully argued that the jury should be allowed to consider the similarities between the accounts of both women and whether it would “defy coincidence” for two people who have said they do not know each other and have never spoken to each other have described such similar details.
Some of the similarities the jury could have considered: that he forcibly spat in their mouths, slapped them, called them degrading terms, restricted their breathing, and ignored their crying and pleas of “stop” and “you are hurting me”; they both said that afterwards he reverted to his old self, and said he’d had a great time and couldn’t wait to see them again; they also both described physical injuries including bleeding and bruises.
Hoggard’s defence lawyer Megan Savard argued that many of the similarities could be explained by Hoggard’s typical pattern of consensual sex, which included spitting, “love tapping” and name-calling. She suggested the complainants could have left at any time, or used their phones to get help and that the evidence of physical injuries is unreliable.
The jury began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to listening back to the testimony of the complainants, Hoggard and the best friend of the teen complainant, the jury also asked several questions about the evidence and the law, including about how to weigh the words and actions of a complainant in considering whether she consented, while also keeping in mind the instruction of the judge not to rely on stereotypical assumptions about how an “ideal victim” would act during or after being sexually assaulted. They also sought examples about how this would apply in the case of the Ottawa woman.
It is a question that some lawyers say strikes at the heart of the challenge of deciding sexual assault cases that hinge on consent and the task of deciding if a complainant is credible and reliable enough to make a finding beyond reasonable doubt.
Roberts told the jury it is not an error to arrive at a factual conclusion that may reflect a stereotype if the factual conclusion is based in evidence, but said she would not give them any examples for fear of influencing them.
A jury’s deliberations are secret and it cannot be known how they reached their decision.
During the four-week trial, the teenage fan, now a woman in her early 20s, testified she had been a huge fan of the Canadian pop-rock band since she was a child. When she was 12, she and her parents met Hoggard after a concert and he gave her parents his cellphone number and free tickets to an upcoming show, she said.
When she was 15, she got his number off her mother’s phone, and told Hoggard at a meet-and-greet in April 2016 that she had it, she said. She testified he told her to use the number sometime and they began messaging. He arranged for her to attend a Hedley concert in Toronto soon after, on April 29, 2016, at the Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) with two friends. She alleged that he groped her backstage while taking photos and tried to kiss her neck. Hoggard denied this happened, but admitted that he knew she was 15 at the time.
The next day she said he messaged her: “I wish you stayed. I want you in this bed so bad.” A screenshot of the text was shown to the jury.
Hoggard agreed when he took the stand that he was sexually interested in the complainant at the time but maintained that he knew the age of consent in Canada is 16 and that he made sure he knew her age because he “just wanted to be responsible and not break the law.”
Over the summer during which she turned 16, they exchanged romantic and sexual messages, including nude photographs. The complainant said she was “infatuated” with Hoggard, who told her he loved her, that he wanted her to have his babies and to go travelling with him — things he testified he didn’t mean.
“Mr. Hoggard is not on trial for breaking hearts or disrespecting women,” Hoggard’s lawyer Savard said in closing arguments, describing his actions as “not pretty” but legal.
The complainant said Hoggard sent a car to bring her from a friend’s home in the GTA on Sept. 30, 2016 — she knew her mother wouldn’t approve — but denied she was going to meet him to have sex. She said she thought they’d have lunch and sightsee in Toronto.
A family friend of hers told police she had been under the impression — which she testified at trial was wrong — the complainant was going to be “wined and dined” by Hoggard and possibly have sex with him.
In her closing arguments to the jury, Savard stressed moments in the teen complainant’s evidence as “confidently incorrect” or lies. She argued the teen complainant could not have had her friend call and pretend to be her manager calling her in for work as a pretence for leaving the hotel room early as she testified, because her cellphone records only show a phone call to her friend made at 1:26 p.m., after the limo driver’s records said the drive home had started.
The Crown argued the complainant was clear about the plan she focused on to escape, even if she could not recall exact details of how it happened, and that the limo driver had no actual memory of when exactly they left.
THE MOST POWERFUL SALE & AFFILIATE PLATFORM AVAILABLE!
There's no credit card required! No fees ever.Create Your Free Account Now!
The other complainant, a woman then in her early 20s, testified she met Hoggard on Tinder in Ottawa when he was in town for a We Day performance in November 2016. They began exchanging explicit sexual messages and planned to meet in Toronto to have sex.
Both women testified Hoggard changed completely from the kind, sweet person they expected once they were in the hotel rooms.
He went from “this person who makes you believe this fairy tale about love and romance and softness and gentleness to this monster of a human who has no compassion and no empathy,” the teen complainant said.
He became a “psychopath,” the Ottawa woman said.
“He was crazy,” she said. “His eyes were absolutely terrifying.”
During deliberations, the jury asked whether Hoggard, a rock star and celebrity, was in a position of power or authority over the complainants in a way that could affect consent or the age of consent. They were told he was not.
Both complainants said they were afraid of Hoggard and that they were not acting rationally under the traumatic circumstances. They both said they told close friends they had been sexually assaulted and both went to the doctor within weeks. The teen’s best friend testified she saw blood in the complainant’s underwear. A friend of the Ottawa woman testified she saw bruising on the complainant’s pelvic area.
Their medical records from the doctor visits say they reported being sexually assaulted but the records do not document any injuries.
Both said they did not plan to report what happened to the police at the time.
The two complainants testified they went to the police more than a year later in spring 2018, though the jury did not hear that at the time several people were accusing Hoggard of sexual misconduct on Twitter. The Ottawa complainant first did an anonymous interview with CBC, which the teen complainant said she was sent but didn’t read the details of.
Hoggard testified he could not recall exactly what happened in the hotel room with each complainant but maintained that he was sure they both consented through both non-verbal and verbal cues and that it was fun, exciting and “passionate.” He denied choking one complainant — she testified she thought she was going to die — or pushing one complainant’s face into pillows. He testified that the encounters were not memorable and that he frequently had casual sex with women as part of his “rock star lifestyle” while touring with Hedley.
Crown prosecutor Witkin argued it is convenient that Hoggard could not recall any specific details about how he obtained consent about the unusual sexual acts. She described him as an “entitled, sexual opportunist” who did not care if the complainants said no or resisted, and said there is no credible reason for either complainant to lie.
Savard argued the Ottawa woman lied about needing stitches in her vagina in an emotional phone call to Hoggard that he secretly recorded in the days immediately after the sexual assault, and that the jury could not trust her to tell the truth. The woman did not recall the phone call until the audio was played for her during the trial after a legal battle out of the jury’s presence.
The Crown argued that the woman’s testimony about the sexual assault was clear. And in the phone call where she told Hoggard he pushed her “to the point where it was just so painful” after she said tried to say no, she testified she said she needed stitches to scare him into acknowledging what he’d done and apologizing. Her medical records from five days after the alleged sexual assault state she was concerned about vaginal tearing.
Outside the jury’s presence, Justice Roberts expressed skepticism over the defence argument that the women had a motive to make up sexual assaults because they regretted the sexual encounters and believed claiming sexual assault would garner more sympathy with the close friends and family they needed for support.
Savard argued that the complainants were upset because Hoggard said he ended the encounters earlier than planned after the sex was over, and that he recalled the Ottawa woman rolling her eyes at him.
It seemed like “classic myth-based reasoning,” Roberts said, referring to the misconception that women lie about sexual assault because they regret consensual sex. It also doesn’t square with Hoggard’s testimony that he had highly enjoyable and “passionate” sex with both complainants, she observed.
Roberts especially found the suggestion that the teen complainant made up a sexual assault to get support and understanding from her ex-boyfriend to have little air of reality because the complainant said she never told her ex-boyfriend about being sexually assaulted.
In her legal instructions, Justice Roberts warned the jury they could not convict Hoggard because they found his sexual preferences, his admitted sexual advances on the teen complainant, or his admission of cheating on his partners to be distasteful.
She also instructed the jury that consent cannot be given in advance and that they could not find that a woman is less worthy of belief or more likely to have consented because she exchanged sexual messages with the accused in advance.
Both complainants described experiencing serious psychological trauma in the wake of being sexually assaulted — something the jury could consider in addition to physical injuries when determining if Hoggard caused them bodily harm.
The teen complainant said she had nightmares and panic attacks and would wake up believing Hoggard was in her bedroom. Her mother said the complainant became withdrawn and could not sleep without a light on.
The Ottawa woman said she thinks about what happened daily and what she could have done differently. She told the jury she had blocked out traumatic details — like the 15-minute call — because she needed to do so to survive.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for later this summer.
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.
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe