Teen says he held down friend’s arm during sex assault at Toronto school out of fear

A teen on trial for sexual assault told a court Thursday that he held down a friend’s arm during a locker-room attack at school out of fear he’d be targeted if he didn’t join in.

The teen has been accused in two sexual assaults that occurred at St. Michael’s College School in the fall of 2018. Charges related to one of the incidents were withdrawn Thursday before the teen took the stand in his own defence.

The teen said the situation inside the locker room at the all-boys Catholic school in Toronto was chaotic during an incident in November 2018.

Many players were yelling at him to hold down the victim, he said.

“I just did what the mob of people were telling me to do, and when they’re done I’ll be fine,” the testifying teen said of his mindset at the time.

“If I helped (the victim), then it’s just me and him versus the whole football team … and either way we’re going to lose, so felt I had to save myself.”

He said two others held down the victim’s other arm and lower body, adding that he apologized to his friend after the incident.

Teen pleaded not guilty

The teen pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon in connection with incidents involving two different victims that took place in October and November 2018.

The charges related to the October incident — one count each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon — were withdrawn Thursday after the judge found there was not enough evidence to proceed.

The decision came after the defence filed an application for a directed verdict on those charges, noting the victim in the October incident told police the accused teen was not involved.

The Crown argued the victim in that incident could only identify three of his four attackers, and another witness placed the accused teen in the locker room at time. But that witness left before the incident occurred, court heard.

“What the Crown has drawn is not a reasonable inference, it is speculation,” Justice Manjusha Pawagi said in her ruling.

No minors involved in the proceedings can be named due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The accused teen said he and the victim in the November incident, who were friends, both played on one of the school’s basketball teams and went to the football teams’ locker room after a game.

Bullying occurred daily, teen says

A large circle of boys gathered, chanting, and called him over to the middle of the circle, the teen said.

He saw his friend “squirming on the ground,” with his pants ripped down and others pressing him down, the teen said. The group continued to yell at the accused teen to hold down one of the victim’s arms, he told court.

He recalled someone yelling, “get the broom, get the broom!”

A student returned with a broom and forced the handle into the victim’s anus, the teen recalled. Another student grabbed the broom and did the same thing, he said.

Bullying occurred daily at the school, he said, especially at the hands of members of one the football teams.

“If someone calls you and you don’t participate, they say, ‘you’re scared so we might as well get you, too,”‘ he said.

The teen testified groups of boys would roam the halls and locker rooms and slam other students into lockers, rip their pants and underwear down, and wrestle others to the ground.

He said a group attacked him once and tried to rip his pants down, but they weren’t successful.

Many of those incidents were captured on video and shared on social media, he said.

He said he and the victim walked to the subway together after the November incident.

“I apologized for what I did,” the accused teen said. “I said ‘I didn’t know that would happen to you and if I knew then I
wouldn’t let you go down.”‘

He said his friend was angry but didn’t hold him responsible.

“He didn’t blame me for it, for what I did,” he said.

That victim did not testify at trial.

Three teens have already pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon for their roles in the incidents.

Each was sentenced to two years of probation.

One of them also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording one of the sex assaults in a video that was widely distributed.

Another student received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time after pleading guilty. The charges against two others were withdrawn.
 

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