MANDEL: Jacob Hoggard guilty of sexually assaulting Ottawa college student

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It was an incredibly surprising verdict.

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After six days of deliberation, a jury of 10 men and two women found former Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm in the 2016 brutal rape of an Ottawa college student — but acquitted him of raping a lovestruck 16-year-old fan and touching her sexually when she was just 15.

But unfortunately, Hoggard wasn’t going directly to jail; Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts wasn’t prepared to revoke Hoggard’s bail despite the Crown’s request seeing that he’s been found guilty of “extremely violent behaviour” and faces a third charge of sexual assault causing bodily harm that was laid in March.

Following the split verdict, Hoggard looked stricken. The former pop star, who once had fans around the world at his feet, slumped in his chair, staring down at the counsel table in shock as his lawyer, Megan Savard, whispered in his ear, no doubt assuring him this wasn’t over.

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The Ontario Court of Appeal is just metres away .

The Crown will likely appeal, as well. Of the two complainants, it was the 16-year-old who seemed the most convincing that she’d been the victim of violent sex that had been against her will and many of us following the trial since it began at the start of May assumed that if anything, Hoggard would be convicted on the counts involving the high school student.

But the longer the jury was out, it appeared Hoggard, now a married carpenter with a young son, could actually be acquitted of all charges.

Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard arrives alongside his wife, Rebekah Asselstine, for his sex assault trial at the Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 in Toronto.
Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard arrives alongside his wife, Rebekah Asselstine, for his sex assault trial at the Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 in Toronto. Photo by Cole Burston /THE CANADIAN PRESS

The jurors were obviously hung up on the issue of consent and repeatedly came back to Roberts to ask about the law that surrounds that issue — they were particularly interested in how it related to the Ottawa woman he’d met on Tinder and arranged to hook up with at the Thompson Hotel.

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The jury seemed to have trouble with her having lied during a lengthy phone call secretly recorded by Hoggard after their encounter when she told him she needed stitches and was consulting a lawyer. She was trying to provoke him into apologizing, she explained, so she could put this nightmare behind her.

Hoggard’s lawyer, though, had urged the jury to find she had no credibility and couldn’t be believed.

It was so problematic in the jury room that jurors twice told the judge that they couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on all counts. Roberts almost let them give up after their second attempt at surrender, but both the Crown and the defence urged the judge to tell them to keep deliberating.

And so they did, spending most of the weekend listening to playbacks of the testimony from Hoggard and the two complainants.

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It had seemed like a very strong Crown case — neither woman knew of the other when they went to police in 2018 with eerily similar stories of rape and degradation almost two years earlier by a famous celebrity who seemed to become a different person, a “monster,” a “psychopath,” from the flirtatious, kind man they’d met online.

Didn’t it “defy coincidence” that two strangers living in different cities would describe almost identical acts of sexual violence? They never wavered in their allegations, even as the pandemic interrupted, and it took four years to finally come to trial.

Why, oh why, would anyone put herself through this torture if it weren’t true?

Yet the jury didn’t believe that poor teen, a young girl who’d had a crush on Hoggard for years, who’d been romanced by the star with promises of love and rainbows and having children together. She thought they were going to spend the day sightseeing in Toronto when he sent a car for her on Sept. 30, 2016, she said.

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Instead, she tearfully testified that her crush turned into a monster who ignored her cries to stop, called her a “dirty little whore,” spit in her mouth, slapped her face and repeatedly raped her — leaving her bleeding and bruised.

She was driven home earlier than planned only because she pretended that she’d been called in early to her part-time job, she said. Her girlfriend testified about seeing her bloody underwear and her inflamed vagina. Her mom described a daughter who still can’t sleep without a light on.

Did jurors really believe the high school student invented her detailed rape allegations out of shame and humiliation and held tight to them for six years?

We’ll never know what they were thinking.

We do know this, though. They found that despite his denials, Hoggard is a rapist.

At least when it comes to the Ottawa college student, he ignored her cries of “no” and “stop” as he choked her, spit in her mouth, slapped her across the face and viciously assaulted her.

For one woman, there is justice. And hopefully, Hoggard will soon be cuffed and locked away.

As prosecutor Jill Witkin told the judge, the Crown will be seeking a “significant penitentiary sentence” when court returns, likely in August.

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