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Jurors were faced with two vastly different portrayals of Jacob Hoggard on Friday, with prosecutors painting the Canadian musician as a “sexual opportunist” who refused to take no for an answer and defence lawyers describing him as an insecure celebrity who used women for meaningless but consensual sex.
Hoggard, the frontman for the band Hedley, has acknowledged having sex with a teenage fan and a young Ottawa woman in the fall of 2016, leaving jurors to determine whether the encounters were consensual, as he says, or violent rapes, as the complainants allege.
In their final pitch to the jury Friday, prosecutors said what happened in Hoggard’s Toronto-area hotel rooms wasn’t what either of the complainants wanted, but it was what the singer wanted.
“That is not consent,” Crown attorney Jill Witkin said.
“Mr. Hoggard acted as an entitled sexual opportunist, someone who sought his own sexual gratification with no regard for (the complainants’) boundaries,” she said. He was “on a mission to carry through with his sexual preferences in the face of resistance and pain and hurt,” she added.
Hoggard testified he was confident both complainants consented but couldn’t specify how they expressed that consent, saying that he relied on sounds and body language but providing no details on what those were, Witkin said.
He also said he had no detailed memories of the encounters or what particular acts were involved, though he acknowledged some of what the complainants described — such as spitting, slapping and calling them derogatory names — may have happened since those were part of his sexual repertoire, the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Witkin said, the events described by two complainants — two women who have never met or spoken with each other — shared a number of similarities beyond the specific sexual acts they alleged took place.
Both recalled communicating with Hoggard through text, Snapchat and phone calls leading up to the encounters, and receiving a video of him masturbating in a bathroom, the prosecutor said. Both said he was kind and complimentary until the incidents, which led them to trust him, she said.
Both described a drastic transformation in his behaviour once inside the hotel room, Witkin said. And both said Hoggard sent them messages afterwards “as if nothing had happened,” telling them he had a good time and couldn’t wait to see them again, she said.
“This is not a coincidence. This is not some unfair twist of fate raging against Mr. Hoggard,” she said, arguing the women’s accounts were “unusually and strikingly similar.”
Hoggard’s lawyers, however, told the jury the musician may have been cavalier and disrespectful towards women, but he is not a “sadistic serial rapist.”
Defence lawyer Megan Savard portrayed her client as an insecure, attention-starved rock star who routinely succumbed to the temptation and easy validation of one-night stands over more than a decade of touring with Hedley, even when in a relationship.
But she said Hoggard did not rape the complainants. “He did not take delight in their struggles, he is not a monster, he is a flawed human being,” she said in her closing submissions.
“His fame and power gave him the capacity to engage in hurtful conduct and two women were hurt by his callous approach to their sexual relationships,” she said.
“But Mr. Hoggard is not on trial for breaking hearts or disrespecting women, he is not on trial for being cavalier with their feelings. He has already admitted and paid the price for that.”
The fact that Hoggard left each complainant alone in an unlocked hotel room while he showered, and that he took a call and ordered room service during the encounter with the second complainant, is “far more consistent with consensual sex than sadistic rape,” the defence lawyer said.
Hedley singer testifies in his own defence
Savard argued the complainants made up the rape allegations because they were “upset and embarrassed by the way Mr. Hoggard dismissed them” and the stigma of admitting they regretted a consensual encounter was “too painful.”
She further suggested the complainants “needed a sympathetic story to tell that would allow them to save face” with their close friends and family, and while they never initially planned to contact police, by 2018, the pressure to do so began to mount.
“They’d lived with their lies for so long they had to follow through,” she said.
Hoggard, 37, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one of sexual interference, a charge that refers to the sexual touching of someone under 16.
The sexual interference charge relates to allegations that he groped the younger complainant backstage after a Hedley show in Toronto when she was still 15.
The younger complainant, a longtime Hedley fan who first met Hoggard at age 12, said they began communicating directly after chatting at a meet-and-greet event in April 2016.
A few weeks later, he arranged to have her and two friends come to the Toronto show and gave them backstage access, court has heard. The complainant alleged he repeatedly touched her buttocks while taking photos and later tried to kiss her neck.
The defence argued there was no groping, noting there was no sign of anything amiss in the photos taken that night.
Prosecutors said a friend testified she saw Hoggard try to kiss the teen’s cheek or neck, and the complainant try to push him off.
They added a text Hoggard sent the teen the next day, in which he said he wanted her in his bed, was a sign he was sexually interested in her, and jurors should consider that in assessing whether the touching after the concert was of a sexual nature.
Hoggard testified earlier this week that he did not touch the complainant sexually until after she turned 16, adding he made a point to know when she would reach that milestone because it is the age of consent.
In her submissions, Witkin pointed to Hoggard’s text messages with the complainant, in which he referenced waiting until she turned 18 then immediately told her it didn’t matter. “Mr. Hoggard thought 18 was the age of consent at that time and he did not intend to abide by it,” she argued.
The teen agreed to meet up Hoggard on Sept. 30, 2016, testifying she believed they would be shopping or sightseeing. She alleged in her testimony that once in his hotel room, Hoggard raped her vaginally and orally and attempted to do so anally. She said she resisted physically but Hoggard pinned her down.
The second complainant testified she first met the singer on the dating app Tinder and, after being in touch for a few weeks, agreed to meet him in Toronto to have sex on Nov. 22, 2016.
But instead of having consensual sex, she was raped anally, vaginally and orally, and at one point dragged by the legs into the bathroom, she told the court.
Both alleged Hoggard spit in their mouths, slapped them and called them derogatory names. They also said he restricted their breathing: the first complainant alleged he pushed her face into the pillows until she thought she would pass out, and the second complainant said he choked her so hard she feared for her life.
The Ottawa woman also alleged Hoggard asked her to urinate on him and then said he would urinate on her, both of which she refused.
Hoggard testified he had consensual, “passionate” sex with each of the complainants. While he acknowledged that he could not recall details of the encounters, he said it was his practice to pay close attention to his partners’ verbal and non-verbal cues, and that part of his satisfaction came from seeing them enjoy themselves.
The jury could begin its deliberations as early as Tuesday.
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