Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard denies rape allegations at sex assault trial

Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard has emphatically denied raping a teenager and a young woman nearly six years ago, testifying Tuesday that both encounters were consensual and "passionate."

Taking the stand in his own defence at his sex assault trial, Hoggard, 37, acknowledged that certain acts alleged to have taken place during the two 2016 encounters -- including spitting, slapping and calling the complainants "slut" and "whore" -- could have happened because they were among his sexual preferences.

But he denied touching either of the complainants without their consent, or that the complainants cried or said no during the encounters. He also denied touching the younger complainant, a longtime fan he first met when she was 12, in a sexual way before she turned 16.

"I knew when she turned 16 ... I just wanted to know," Hoggard told the court.

When asked why he wanted to know, he said: "To be responsible and not break the law... I'm pretty sure the age of consent in Canada is 16 years old."

Hoggard, the frontman for the band Hedley, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one of sexual interference, a charge that relates to the sexual touching of a person under 16.

It's an agreed fact in the case that Hoggard arranged to have each of the complainants meet him at Toronto-area hotels on two separate occasions in the fall of 2016.

Prosecutors allege that, once at the hotel, Hoggard violently and repeatedly raped the complainants, leaving them bleeding and bruised.

Both women have testified they cried and said no during the encounters. The younger complainant also said she tried to resist physically but Hoggard pinned her down.

That complainant, who is now in her early 20s, also alleges Hoggard groped her backstage after a show at what is now the Scotiabank Arena in late April 2016, when she was still 15.

In his testimony Tuesday, Hoggard recalled enjoying the attention he received after the band rose to fame in 2004, noting it became much easier for him to meet women.

One-night stands became commonplace while touring, even when he was in a relationship, the singer said, adding he built up a significant roster of sexual partners in various cities. It was "difficult" to be faithful and easier to "just enjoy the attention," he said.

It would be fairly common for him to arrange transportation through a travel agent to bring women to his hotel while on tour, he said.

He started communicating directly with the first complainant after seeing her at a meet-and-greet event after a Toronto-area concert in April 2016, Hoggard said.

They began exchanging messages through text and apps such as Snapchat after that night and later that month, Hoggard invited her and some friends to come to a Hedley show in Toronto, he said. Court has heard he arranged to have a limo pick up the complainant and her friends and drive them back later.

He testified that after the show, the complainant ran up to him and jumped into his arms. They took some photos and had a video call with her mom, and were together about 20 minutes, said.

They messaged each other afterwards and the next day, Hoggard sent her a text that said "I want you in this bed so bad," he said, adding he believed it was the first sexual message they exchanged.

Under cross-examination, Hoggard agreed it was possible he sent that text to gauge the complainant's response.

Crown attorney Kelly Slate then suggested Hoggard also groped the complainant's buttocks after the show for the same reason -- to test her reaction.

"Absolutely not," he replied.

Hoggard testified that his exchanges with the complainant grew sexual over the spring and summer but had a "romantic edge," that he told her he loved her and saw a future with her even though it wasn't true. He described the relationship as not "overly meaningful."

The singer agreed with the Crown that he initially made plans to meet the complainant in Toronto to sightsee or "something along those lines," but that those plans fell through. Prosecutors questioned why he would make plans to spend a day with someone he saw only as a prospective sexual partner and asked whether Hoggard had intended to have sex with the complainant that day.

"I don't think so," he said.

When they did meet up that September, Hoggard testified the plan was for them to have sex. He sent a limo to pick her up, brought her to his hotel, and they had "passionate" sex for one to two hours, he said. Then, feeling that the encounter had run its course, he called the limo to take her home and escorted her out of the hotel, he said.

Slate noted it was the first time Hoggard and the complainant had been alone together, and that Hoggard's sexual preferences would be "unusual" for a 16-year-old.

"In that one to two hours she's with you, you engaged in a bunch of sexual acts… and in that time period, you built up enough trust with (the complainant), who you've just met, for her to consent to those acts?" she asked.

"Yes," Hoggard said.

Slate suggested Hoggard simply assumed the complainant was consenting, but the singer said he was paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues.

Hoggard acknowledged he doesn't remember the details of the encounter, or the one with the second complainant, which took place in November 2016.

He testified the second complainant took the train from Ottawa and met him at a hotel in downtown Toronto. His usual room wasn't ready, so they went to a different room first and kissed, he said. He denied forcing a kiss on the complainant, but said she told him to slow down and he indicated she could leave if she wanted to.

He then went to get a coffee and when he returned, the other room was ready, he said. They went to the other room and engaged in "fun, exciting" sex, he said.

In her cross-examination, Slate suggested Hoggard assumed the complainant was consenting because she didn't leave when he went for a coffee. He agreed that was part of it, but said she also gave verbal and non-verbal cues as they were having sex.

"I was very aware of the level of enjoyment she had," he said.

A few days later, the complainant sent him a text indicating she wasn't happy with their time together, which shocked and scared him, he testified. They exchanged messages, and Hoggard acknowledged there was a lot of "romantic affection" in those texts even though he only saw the complainant as a one-night stand.

Eventually, they talked on the phone -- a call Hoggard recorded without informing the complainant, he said under cross-examination. In that call, which court has heard, the complainant tells him she was injured during the encounter and repeatedly suggests he is following a script to protect himself.

The musician agreed he chose his words carefully during the call but denied using a script. Hoggard also agreed that though he told the complainant during the call that he cared for her and would be there for her, that wasn't true.

Hoggard further agreed he lied about his phone running out of power because he wanted to end the call. Afterwards, he blocked the complainant's number, he said.

He said he doesn't have any records of their text exchanges except a few screenshots he sent to a friend at the time, because he regularly deleted messages so his partner wouldn't find them.

Slate suggested that after each of the encounters, Hoggard messaged the complainants saying they'd had a wonderful time together.

"Regardless of what happened in the hotel with both (the first and second complainants), sending those messages afterwards, you're trying to make it seem like everything's fine... that nothing unusual happened in the hotel room," she said.

"Certainly nothing unusual did happen in the hotel room," he said.

Hoggard is expected to return to the stand Wednesday. The defence has said it also plans to call as a witness a limo driver who drove the younger complainant to meet Hoggard.

Neither of the complainants can be identified under a publication ban, nor can several other witnesses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

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