Trial opens for Ont. man accused of sexually assaulting teenage girl

Trial opens for Ont. man accused of sexually assaulting teenage girl

The first day of trial of an Ontario man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl heard from an RCMP computer expert on Tuesday in Halifax provincial court.

Paul Christopher Coburn, 47, is facing five charges in connection with an alleged incident on Feb. 21, 2017, at a downtown Halifax hotel.

The charges are:

  • Sexual interference.
  • Invitation to sexual touching.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services from a child.
  • Communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services.

Police first became involved two days after the alleged incident when they responded to a 911 call. The caller said a young girl was trapped in the basement of a house on Pockwock Road in Hammonds Plains by a man who wouldn't let her go.

The first officer to respond that night testified he came across a young girl in her sock feet, walking along the side of the road. He took her back to the RCMP detachment in Tantallon to take a statement. He said the girl was sobbing and upset.

RCMP computer expert testimony

An RCMP computer expert testified about information he retrieved from cellphones police seized as part of their investigation. Two of the phones belonged to Coburn.

The expert said the phones were used to research topics including massages, as well as look at classified ads on the online site Backpage. That site has since been shut down by American authorities amid allegations it was a marketplace for buying and selling sex.

The expert also extracted parts of a text exchange between Coburn and another man, Leeanthon Oliver, who has been convicted of human trafficking and is serving an eight-year sentence.

In the exchange, Oliver asks Coburn where he's staying, including his room number. Later in the exchange, he appears to threaten Coburn, saying if he doesn't get the money he was promised within 20 minutes, he'd call police.

"I told you not to do that shit to me," one of the texts reads.

Oliver was brought to the courthouse Monday and spent the day in a holding cell in the basement. He was not called to testify.

Security videos from hotel

The Crown also played a series of security videos from the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel.

In the first video, Coburn can be seen checking in early on the evening of Feb. 21, 2017. After 11 that evening, the video shows a young girl making her way through the hotel lobby. She's seen leaving about half an hour later.

The same girl is shown in a video which the Crown said was taken on March 15, 2017. In the video, a police officer is showing the girl a series of black-and-white photographs of suspects. She thumbs through about five of them before seeing a photo of Coburn. She becomes visibly upset at that point and starts crying. She told the officer that on a scale of one to 10, she's 9 ½ certain the photo is of the man she said assaulted her.

The girl is expected to testify on Wednesday.