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Judge to deliver verdict at Halifax sex assault trial in October

Crown attorney Carla Ball told a judge Wednesday that Paul Christopher Coburn had enough clues to suspect a girl he allegedly had sex with in his hotel room in 2017 was underage.

Lawyers made their closing arguments at the trial of the Burlington, Ont., man, accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl, who had been forced into prostitution, at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel on Feb. 21, 2017.

Ball and fellow Crown attorney Brandon Trask and defence lawyer Joel Pink submitted their closing arguments in writing prior to Wednesday’s session in Halifax provincial court.

They appeared in front of Judge Elizabeth Buckle to allow for final clarifications and answer any questions she had after reading their briefs.

At trial in April, the girl testified that she thought she was just supposed to collect money from Coburn for a man who brought her to the city from New Glasgow and dropped her off at the hotel the night of the alleged assault. But she said that when she went to Coburn’s room, he told her to remove her clothes, forced her to perform oral sex and then had intercourse with her.

In a video recording of Coburn’s police interview, played in court during the trial, the accused maintained he just asked for a massage and thought the girl was in her 20s.

In court on Wednesday, Buckle asked Ball to clarify details in her written brief related to the factors the Crown suggested should have hinted that the girl was underage and put a burden on Coburn to make sure she was not.

Ball said the girl looks young in physical appearance, wore clothing typical of a teen — flat winter boots, tights and a winter coat — as opposed to a more sophisticated wardrobe, and had basic makeup and hair styling also typical of a teen.

Ball said there is also the fact that the girl did not speak about any sexual activity that night, according to her.

“Her silence on sexual activity should raise some concerns, and it should raise concerns about her interest in … sex, but also I submit that you could go further and say it, in the totality of circumstances, (should) raise red flags about her age.”

Ball also said further factors calling age assumptions into question include that they spent less than half an hour together, had little in-depth conversation and the obvious age difference between the accused and alleged victim.

“The fact that he was 45 at the time and she was 15, in law, the difference in age becomes increasingly important to highlight because the older a person is, the more significant the age gap, the more important it is to be sure about the age,” the prosecutor said.

Pink asked to clarify details in the legal briefs referring to a 911 call related to the incident, saying that the call was made more than 24 hours after the alleged assault.

Ball told the court the complainant contacted a friend and had her call 911 on her behalf on Feb. 23, 2017, after she saw that ads offering her services were posted on and Craigslist.

The call to police said the girl was being held against her will at an address on Pockwock Road in Upper Hammonds Plains. Tantallon RCMP Const. Jason Jason Thibodeau told the court during the trial that he found her walking along the road, with no shoes on, at about 2:30 in the morning.

Leeanthon Oliver of Upper Hammonds Plains pleaded guilty last September to human trafficking a person under the age of 18 and sexual interference involving the girl.

Coburn’s name came up during the Oliver investigation. He was arrested on a Canada-wide warrant in July 2017 at the Toronto airport.

Now 48, Coburn was living in Maryland at the time of the alleged offence. He is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, obtaining sexual services for consideration and obtaining sexual services from a person under the age of 18 for consideration.

Buckle will render the verdict when the case returns to court Oct. 2.

With files from Steve Bruce


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