WARNING. This article contains detailed information about sexual extortion and may affect those who have experienced it or know someone who has been affected by it.
Dutch citizen Aidin Koban was found guilty of extortion, two counts of possession of child pornography, seduction of children and the criminal stalking of Amanda Todd, a British Columbian teenager whose story has been around the world since she committed suicide nearly a decade ago.
The jurors returned their verdict in New Westminster, British Columbia Supreme Court after a one-day deliberation.
Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, sat in the back row of the audience gallery on Saturday, taking notes. It moved when Koban returned to the courtroom, within sight of him.
She reacted violently to the reading of each guilty verdict in court.
Koban, dressed in a dark blue button-down shirt, showed almost no emotion during the announcement of the verdict.
Speaking to the CBC outside the courtroom, Todd appeared overjoyed, describing the conviction on all counts as a “fair” decision that came as a relief years after the loss of her daughter.
The verdict comes after seven weeks of testimony involving dozens of witnesses, physical evidence and evidence presented by Crown prosecutors prior to the closing debate.
Coban’s lawyer did not provide any evidence in court.
On Friday, British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Martha Devlin spent the day instructing jurors that they could only find Coban guilty of the charges against him if the Crown proved right beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, she said, he must be acquitted.
For several hours, Devlin reviewed the testimony and evidence that was presented to the jury during a long and difficult trial. She walked the jury through the definition of each criminal charge sworn against Coban, explaining to them the criteria the Crown must meet in order to convict.
- Amanda Todd’s parents remember teen’s torment over repeated social media torment
Returning to discuss next steps towards sentencing, Devlin said she spoke to each jury member individually and thanked them for their work.
“They asked me to convey my sincere gratitude to the crown and the protection for your professionalism and behavior throughout [the trial],” she said.
Years of persecution
Todd committed suicide on October 10, 2012 at the age of 15 after being exploited online for three years. Before she died, she told her story in a nine-minute video posted on YouTube.
The video went viral after her death, with 14.8 million views as of August.
- Crown links Amanda Todd to alleged stalker via video file, phone number and photo
Coban, 44, pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges related to the Todd case, including extortion, possession of child pornography and seduction of children. He was not charged with Todd’s death.
Crown attorney Louise Kenworthy concluded her case earlier last week by saying there was a “treasury of information” linking Coban to Todd’s harassment and extortion.
Earlier in court, a Dutch officer testified that a deleted video file called “AmandaTodd.wmv” was being played on one of the devices in December 2010, corresponding to a time when Todd was actively harassed.
But Coban’s defense argued that the distribution of the link “does not constitute child pornography.”
The video was sent as a link, but there was nothing to indicate that it was stored as data on the seized devices, Joseph Saulnier told jurors on the second day of his closing statements.
- Amanda Todd Cyberbullying Lawyer Says Sharing Link Is Not Child Pornography
Defense counsel also disputed the Crown’s claims that Coban was behind 22 online accounts that harassed and extorted money from Todd.
Earlier in the trial, the jury heard from the British Columbian RCMP officer who originally investigated Todd’s 2011 allegations of harassment. He said that Todd wanted the messages she was receiving to stop.
- ‘She wanted it to stop’: Investigator testifies in Amanda Todd sex extortion trial
Todd’s parents went to the police when their daughter’s messages continued even after she changed schools.
Todd’s mother, Carol, attended Koban’s trial every day, sitting at the back of the courtroom a few meters from the prison box. The defendant sat with his back to her.
The Crown and Koban defense team will meet with Judge Devlin again on Thursday, August 12 to set a date for a sentencing hearing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, here’s where to get help:
- Discussion of suicide in Canada: 1-833-456-4566 (tel.) | 45645 (text from 4:00 p.m. to midnight ET)
- Child Helpline: 1-800-668-6868 (telephone), online chat consultations online
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour Crisis Center
This guide is from Center for Addictions and Mental Health describes how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about.
The police also suggest the following to avoid becoming a victim of sexual extortion:
- Never answer video calls from strangers.
- If you mistakenly connect to a stranger on live TV, hang up immediately.
- Always answer video calls with the camera turned off until you know the caller’s identity.
Anyone who has been targeted should immediately stop communicating with the suspected scammer and report it to the police. Child exploitation can be reported online at www.cybertip.ca.
Police also say that victims should not give in to threats and should keep a record of any correspondence with the perpetrator.