Defence in teen prostitution trial targets teen's memory

Multiple defence lawyers are cross-examining a second girl who alleges she was recruited by three teenage girls accused of running a prostitution ring in Ottawa.

WARNING: Story contains graphic details that may offend some readers

3 girls are charged with sexual assault and human trafficking. 2:28

In the ongoing trial of three teenage girls accused of running a prostitution ring in Ottawa, defence lawyer Nicholas St. Pierre told the court his client tried to protect an alleged victim from the other two accused.

However, the alleged victim, the second to testify, disagreed with the lawyer's claim.

The court allowed the girl, now 17 years old, to testify by video for a second day, because she says she is still scared of the accused girls.

Two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old are facing 74 charges, including human trafficking and forcible confinement, for allegedly luring nine girls to a southeast Ottawa home and forcing them into prostitution.

Two of the accused were 15 years old at the time of the alleged incidents and the other was 16. They were arrested last June, and it is alleged they used social media to lure other teenage girls.

This blurred-out photo was taken from an account on the photo-sharing site Instagram. The account has the same name as a Facebook and Twitter account entered as evidence in court.

None of the accused or the victims can be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On Monday and Tuesday, the court heard the account of the 17-year-old witness who said she was punched and sexually assaulted during an attempt to recruit her into prostitution last year.

She is the only one of the seven alleged victims who is testifying against all three accused. All of the others are testifying against two of the accused.

None of the accused or victims can be named under terms in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Alleged assault described in taped interview

The witness said the three accused told her she was going to be an escort for two 40-year-old men.

The trio allegedly tried to force her into a vehicle with two men inside. The teen said the trio began punching her in the face and pulled out her hair extensions as she tried to escape.

She said she ran from the car and screamed in hopes that passengers sitting in a nearby van would help, but they didn't open the door.

She said the oldest accused told her to stop resisting or she'd end up in the hospital because "snitches get stitches."

St. Pierre said his client, the oldest accused, pulled another of the girls back and said "Are you crazy?"

The teen testified his client didn't do that. She said his client made things worse by punching her and forcing her into the car of one of the "johns." 

Earlier on Tuesday, another defence lawyer, Trevor Brown, who represents one of the 16-year-old accused girls, questioned the witnesses's memory of the events.

Earlier, she had adamantly denied smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol, but on Tuesday admitted she did have one alcoholic cooler.

When Brown further questioned the girl's memory she shot back at him in a strong voice.

"You cannot perfectly recall a situation when you are tired and stressed. I was in shock," she said.

During cross-examination, the court also saw photos showing injuries to the girl's face allegedly taken after the altercation with the accused. The photos show her with a swollen face and a cut across her nose.

Brown completed his cross-examination of the second alleged victim by stating to the girl that he will present evidence from the first "john" that will show she was more of a willing participant than she is letting on.

Girl scared if police involved, mom says

On Friday, the girl's mother testified her daughter may not have wanted to approach police because one of the accused threatened to slit the girl's throat.

The woman, who can't be named to protect her daughter's identity, told the court she was begged not to call police because the three accused knew where her daughter lived and where she went to school.

The girl came home with a bloody nose and bruised face after being beaten, her mother also said.

As of April 25, everyone who enters the courtroom has to pass through a metal detector. That is due to "recent events," according to the Crown.

The Crown wouldn't confirm the reasons for increased security, but it requested that a mother of one of the accused be banned from the current testimony, and a friend be banned from the rest of the trial for "staring down" the second alleged victim on Friday.

The mother was allowed to stay with a warning, but the teenage friend was banned from the trial.

Police are checking bags and identification, as well as questioning each person about why he or she is at the trial.