Warning: Contains graphic content
When the lead singer of her favorite band began exchanging messages through text and Snapchat with her, telling her he loved her and wanted her to have his babies, that he wanted her “in my bed,” and that he wanted to see her naked, the then 15-year-old girl thought she was in love.
“Now, looking back, I realize it was infatuation and it was manipulated feelings,” the woman, now in her early 20s, testified Thursday at a jury trial for the singer, Jacob Hoggard, front-man of the Canadian rock band Hedley. Charged with one count of sexual touching of a person under the age of 16 and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm, the 37-year-old has pleaded not guilty.
For the first time on Thursday, the details of the allegations against Hoggard were made public in a downtown Toronto courtroom: he is accused of repeatedly and violently raping that young fan when she was 16 and a young woman from Ottawa in separate 2016 incidents. He is also accused of grabbing the teen fan’s bum and trying to kiss her neck when she was 15 while backstage at a concert at the Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank arena) in April 2016.
Hoggard has admitted to having a “sexual encounter” in a hotel room with each complainant on the dates of the alleged rapes.
The identities of both complainants are under a publication ban that is available to sexual assault complainants.
The young fan, a university graduate, testified Thursday that it was a “fangirl moment” when she first met Hoggard and other members of the band in a hotel parking lot after a concert she attended with her parents. She was 12 at the time and had been a fan since she was 10, she said. Hoggard invited them to come to an upcoming concert with backstage passes — which the court heard was something the band often did for fans — and gave her father his phone number.
When the girl was 15, she said she copied Hoggard’s number off her mother’s phone.
“It was just a silly thing that a 15-year-old girl did,” she testified. “It was kind of like, wow, I have this person that I look up to.”
She didn’t use the number, but at a meet-and-greet for a concert in early April 2016, she said she told Hoggard she had his number.
“You should use that sometime,” she testified he told her, and she texted shortly after that. They began by talking about WE charity, which Hedley was involved with, and what touring was like. Then, he suggested they move the conversation to Snapchat and it began to get sexual.
“He’s telling that I’m this beautiful person that he loves … It was like, wow, it was that feeling of, like, a ‘pinch me’ feeling,” she said. Then, once when she had fallen asleep, he messaged: “let me see what’s under the sheets.” They began to exchange naked photos, and he sent her a video of him masturbating, she said. Once, he took a screenshot of a naked photo of her, which she knew because of a Snapchat notification that a screenshot had been taken, and she said she asked him not to.
She said he told her: “I just want to keep them because you are so special to me. I won’t show them to anybody.”
She said she didn’t take screenshots of their Snapchat conversations, but did take some of the text conversations, which she was excited about.
Some of those screenshots were shown to the jury Thursday. In them, the sender, alleged to be Hoggard, refers to the complainant as “love” and “baby.”
“When are you free,” she wrote.
The response: “When are you 18 lol.”
The woman testified that Hoggard arranged for her to come to a concert in downtown Toronto on April 29, 2016, at the Air Canada Centre and that he told her to come with girlfriends, not her parents.
In an agreed statement of facts, Hoggard has admitted that he arranged tickets and limo service for the first complainant and two friends to the concert at the Air Canada Centre on April 29, 2016, and that he was aware the complainant was 15 at the time.
She said that the man she knew as Hedley’s manager called her and told her to come to Hoggard’s dressing room after the concert. Hoggard seemed excited to her see her and picked her up with his hands on her bum and swung her around, she said.
She said this made her uncomfortable and she put her hands on his chest to indicate that he should put her down. While she and her friends were taking photos with Hoggard she said he kept moving his hand from her lower back to her bum.
“I would either grab his wrist and put it off or I would move out of the area,” she said.
Afterwards, she said she and her friends talked about how strange it was for him to be touching her in that way.
He messaged her after the concert asking if she got home safe and if she had a good time.
“I wish you stayed, I want you in bed so bad,” she said he told her.
He then proposed that she come to Toronto for a day by herself, and said he’d send a car for her. She said her mom would never let her, but said she could say she was with a friend. “Perfect,” she said Hoggard responded. That plan did not work out but it was rescheduled.
In her opening overview of the evidence the jury is expected to hear, Crown prosecutor Kelly Slate said that in September 2016 Hoggard sent a car for the teenager and brought her to a hotel in Mississauga where he repeatedly and violently raped the girl.
“It was not what she anticipated or wanted. She was crying and she said no,” Slate said.
Over several hours, Hoggard slapped her, spit in her mouth, called her names and pushed her face into pillows leaving her unable to breathe, Slate said. Finally, the girl pretended to get a call from work and said she was being called in. Hoggard arranged for the car to take her back earlier than expected, Slate said.
Slate said the jury is expected to hear from friends of the girl, one of whom will say she saw blood on the girl’s underwear when she returned, and the limo driver who said the girl was behaving differently on the way back.
The girl blocked Hoggard’s number and never went to another Hedley concert, Slate said.
The second complainant will testify that she met Hoggard in the fall of 2016, Slate said. He was performing at We Day in Ottawa and invited her backstage, which she declined at the time. They continued communicating and he invited her to Toronto when the band was performing at the Jingle Ball. The young woman expected they would have sex but she did not consent to what took place in Hoggard’s hotel room, Slate said.
Slate said the woman will testify that he pushed her onto bed and raped her vaginally, anally and orally. He also slapped her, spit in her mouth, choked her so she couldn’t breathe and dragged her to the bathroom by her legs, Slate said she will testify. Like the first complainant, the woman was crying throughout and said no, Slate said.
Friends of the woman will testify she was upset and emotional when she got home and one will describe seeing bruises on the woman’s legs and that she had trouble walking.
Both complainants went to the police in 2018, after which Hoggard was charged. The second complainant gave an interview to CBC anonymously before speaking with police.
Hoggard has admitted that, on Sept 30, 2016, he arranged for a limo service to pick up the first complainant at 10 a.m. and bring her to the Sheraton Gateway hotel where they had a “sexual encounter.”
The first complainant went to the hospital on Oct. 12, 2016, according to the agreed facts.
Hoggard admitted to booking the second complainant Via Rail train tickets leaving Ottawa at 5:30 a.m. and leaving Toronto at 6:40 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2016, and to having a “sexual encounter” with her at the Thompson hotel.
The second complainant went to the hospital on Nov. 28, 2016.
Hoggard has been the lead singer of the popular pop-rock band from B.C. since 2004, after competing on the second season of Canadian Idol that same year. The band toured frequently across Canada and produced seven albums, with hit songs including “Kiss You Inside Out” and “Crazy for You.”
The band went on hiatus in 2018.
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati