Sexual messages with student just jokes, Noel Strapp testifies under cross-examination
About 8,000 text messages exchanged, with handful containing sexual references
A former teacher charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation testified Thursday that while he received inappropriate, sexual text messages from a student he taught and coached, they aren't indicative of a sexual relationship between him and the student.
In all, about 8,000 text messages between Noel Strapp and the complainant, whose identity is covered under a publication ban, were gathered by the police, but only eight mention anything sexual.
The now 22-year-old complainant testified Oct. 29 that she and Strapp, 39, had about 100 sexual interactions — 10 to 20 of those times including penetration. She said it happened in the school, at Strapp's home, in his children's play house and his car.
Strapp denied all the allegations against him in court Wednesday. The 39-year-old is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation — touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The charges stem from allegations made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary by the woman in 2019.
In court Thursday, Crown prosecutor Jessica Gallant focused particular attention on just a few of the thousands of messages between Strapp and the student.
Gallant raised one message that Strapp sent to a group chat with several of the teenage athletes he coached — including the complainant — in which he said "all of this [talk] is making me right horny," along with a picture of a goat.
He said the message was just some locker room talk, a double entendre to try to get a laugh out of the students before a big tournament.
"This is a strategy to loosen them up, make them laugh," Strapp said.
Gallant reminded Strapp that he was a male coach in his 30s texting with a group of 17- and 18-year-old girls.
This is just the type of conversation and banter that we had.- Noel Strapp
The Crown prosecutor also asked Strapp about texts sent to him by the complainant about dreams she'd had, one in which the two got a hotel room together and another about her performing oral sex on him.
He alleged that the complainant was taking medication for narcolepsy, and both texts were just inappropriate jokes based on strange dreams.
"This is just the type of conversation and banter that we had," Strapp said. "The texts were only in writing what she was always doing and saying."
In both cases, he replied to the texts and told the complainant to delete the messages. Strapp told the court the messages were "wrong" and "inappropriate," and he didn't want to be a part of those conversations.
Gallant challenged Strapp's statement, however, suggesting that telling the complainant to delete the messages made things look more sinister, and asked why he didn't make it clear to the complainant that those kinds of messages were inappropriate.
He reiterated that those kinds of texts were normal from the complainant and he would have acted differently if it were another student, but he didn't take any of the texts as a sexual advance.
'I thought she was lost'
Strapp testified that he was worried about the complainant and sincerely thought he was doing her a service by letting her send him those sorts of messages and giving her space to be herself, but now realizes how inappropriate the messages look.
He said the complainant told him she was having issues at home, and he was scared her parents would have a negative reaction to the messages.
"I thought she was lost," he said.
"I made a lot of decisions based on a claim she made that she was in an abusive home."
Strapp said he sent her to the school guidance counsellor to discuss any issues in her home life, but didn't follow up with her about it.
He told the court that he felt like he could help fix other people, and the situation with the complainant shows his issues with what he calls a "saviour complex."
Gallant also questioned Strapp about a screenshot of a Snapchat message he sent to the complainant in the summer of 2019.
Strapp testified that the relationship between him and the complainant had become strained by that point. She had moved away for university and he claims that she didn't follow through on commitments to help him with coaching.
He said he had become more stressed over time, and took it out on the people around him, before eventually seeking professional help and getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Strapp said he was ashamed of the diagnosis, but the Snapchat message was part of his healing process and was the same message he sent to his wife and mother.
"I'm sorry for being so shitty to you when I was in these lows," it read.
He told the court that the complainant sent a long, angry reply several hours later, saying that he'd traumatized her and telling him not to talk to her again. Strapp said she stopped responding to his messages after that.
On Oct. 29, the complainant testified Strapp manipulated her for his own sexual gain, and that the two also sent sexual pictures and videos to each other on Snapchat, which erases messages after they are seen by the person receiving them, while she was in grades 11 and 12.
Strapp denied the allegation.
Closing arguments are expected in provincial court Friday.