The trial for three teenage girls accused of running a teen prostitution ring in Ottawa, allegedly using social media, will resume Tuesday after an Ottawa police detective revealed evidence from a phone owned by one of the accused, which included 29 phone numbers of men allegedly listed as clients.
The three Ottawa girls, two who were 15 and one who was 16 when they were arrested, have pleaded not guilty to a total of 74 charges that include:
- Human trafficking.
- Procuring for prostitution.
- Forcible confinement.
- Sexual assault.
- Uttering threats.
- Printing and publishing child pornography.
It took about 20 minutes to read the charges on the trial’s first day.
Last June, police in Ottawa charged the three teens with allegedly using social media to befriend and lure nine girls between 13 and 17 years of age to a home at a social housing complex in southeast Ottawa. That is where one of the accused lived, neighbours said.
Neither the four accused nor the nine alleged victims can be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Crown seeks adult sentences
On Tuesday, Crown attorney Julien Lalonde filed an application in court to have the trio of accused sentenced as adults if they are convicted. If an adult is found guilty of human trafficking, for example, the sentence is a minimum of five years and a maximum of 14 years.
The teen girls will continue to be tried as juveniles but if they are convicted, the judge would decide whether to sentence them as adults.
After the application was filed, the trial continued as Ottawa police Det. Carolyn Botting detailed what police found on a cellphone allegedly owned by one of the accused, and what officers found inside the bedrooms of the accused.
Botting said police discovered 29 phone numbers of men, or "johns," who became clients of the alleged prostitution ring. She said officers discovered the men were found through online dating websites.
The Crown also alleged two of the johns engaged in sexual activity with girls 16 and 17 years old against the girls' will. One of the accused johns, who is expected to testify, is facing a charge of sexual assault related to the prostitution ring.
Police evidence revealed Tuesday also included numerous photos of five teen girls who are complainants and that were not shown in court. Justice Diane Lahaie, Lalonde, lawyers for each of the accused and the Crown's witnesses reviewed the photos privately.
Botting described the photos in court, though, saying they showed girls nude or semi-nude with breasts and genitals exposed to the camera. The detective also told the court some of the alleged victims were touching themselves in a sexual way in photos.
The Crown alleged the photos were taken after some of the women were forced to take alcohol, marijuana or ecstasy.
3 accused teens expected to testify
In his opening statement Monday, Crown prosecutor Julien Lalonde said over three weekends last May and June, the alleged victims were enticed to a sleepover at the home of one of the accused.
Two of the accused remain in custody. Their co-accused, the eldest of the three, had been released on bail and she continues to sit in the courtroom surrounded by friends.
The three girls, facing a judge-only trial, are each represented by a different lawyer and they are each expected to testify. A mother of one of the accused will also testify as a Crown witness.
During the first day of the trial, which is expected to last four weeks, the Crown also revealed the alleged involvement of a fourth teen girl who faces similar charges, but her trial will be held at a later date. The Crown said those charges are connected to one victim.