Nova Scotia

Ontario man testifies girl initiated sex during massage call to Halifax hotel

Paul Christopher Coburn, 47, is on trial in Halifax provincial court and faces five charges, including sexual assault and communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services from a child.

Warning: This story contains graphic language and content

Paul Christopher Coburn testifed in his own defence Monday at Halifax provincial court where he is being tried on sex-related charges involving a teenage girl. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

An Oakville, Ont., man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a downtown Halifax hotel room two years ago testified Monday he thought the teen was an adult and that she initiated sex after giving him a massage.

Paul Christopher Coburn, 47, is on trial in Halifax provincial court and faces five charges, including sexual assault and communicating for the purpose of obtaining sexual services from a child, related to the Feb. 21, 2017, incident.

Testifying in his own defence, Coburn told a courtroom that he checked into the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel that evening close to 6 p.m. He said he was suffering from back pain, and after investigating the hotel spa turned to the online classified site Craigslist to find a massage therapist.

Phone records show Coburn looked at 16 different Craigslist ads. He selected one and sent the person behind the ad a text message.

Under cross-examination, Coburn read out some names of the 16 ads, which included titles such as "Vanilla flavour female" and "Feels good and tastes even better." The Crown suggested to Coburn that these pages had a "sexual connotation," but he said they were all listed under the therapeutic massage section of Craigslist.

"These are, in my mind, things that people are putting in to get people to click on an ad,"  Coburn said.

He said he was only looking for a massage and did not ask for sexual services.

Coburn testified he believed the person he was texting was an adult female massage therapist but later learned the phone belonged to Leeanthon Oliver, who has been convicted of human trafficking and is serving an eight-year sentence.

Asked for 'rum or vodka'

Coburn testified that after arranging for a person to come to his hotel room to give him a massage, he texted to ask if they would like a drink when they arrived.

"Rum or vodka" was the answer. He agreed and bought a drink from the bar downstairs to give to the person when they arrived. Under cross-examination, Coburn said he didn't think it was inappropriate to offer the person a drink given the time of night, and it didn't concern him that a massage therapist was asking for alcohol.

When the person knocked on his hotel room door, he said he let her in.

"She looked like a professional person coming to do a professional service," Coburn said under questioning from his lawyer, Joel Pink.

He testified that she was wearing minimal makeup, had neat clothing and her appearance was "classy but casual."

Accused says why he thought complainant was at least 18

Coburn testified her body type seemed "busty." He told the court that he believed she was over 18 because of the development of her body, the appearance of her face, hair and clothes, and because of questions he asked her during small talk after she came into the room.

Under cross-examination, Coburn later agreed that some people mature faster than others and it's hard to gauge age based on physical development.

He said the girl told him she was in college, lived "across the bridge" and had a roommate.

Coburn also said he believed the person to be an adult, given Craigslist requires people who post ads to be older than 18 and the text message had asked for "rum or vodka."

He said he paid the girl $80 before the massage began and did not give her any additional money. He testified the girl asked him to get undressed and lie down on the bed. She washed her hands and rubbed lotion on him, massaging his back. He said at no time did he ask for sexual services.

Girl initiated sex act, accused says

Coburn told the court that after about 20 minutes she asked him to roll over and when he did so, he saw that she had undressed herself from the waist down. He said she climbed on top of him, straddling him and initiating sex.

He said that after that, she lay down on the bed and invited him to have sex with her.

Under cross-examination, Coburn said after he saw the girl partially naked, everything happened "very quickly" and he did not have an opportunity to tell her to stop or to get off him. He denied touching her or having any oral sex, as the complainant alleged in her testimony.

Coburn said he sat up and saw blood on the sheet, which he assumed was menstrual blood. He said he got out of bed, told her to get dressed and got dressed himself, and asked her to leave.

The defence also called two witnesses Monday to speak about Coburn's character.

Mary Elizabeth Barrett, a neighbour from Bethesda, Md., where Coburn had lived, and David Matthew Croskery of Oakville, Ont., who called Coburn his "closest friend," both testified the accused's reputation in their communities is that of a "truthful person" with integrity.

The Crown and defence will make their final written submissions to Justice Elizabeth Buckle by the end of June. The judge will have an opportunity to ask questions about those submissions at a court date on July 17.