Aydin Coban found guilty of extorting B.C. teen Amanda Todd

The jury presiding over Aydin Coban's trial in B.C. handed down a unanimous verdict on all five charges after just one day of deliberations.

By Charlie Carey and Andrew Cowie

Editor’s note: This article contains details that may be upsetting to some readers

In a case that garnered international attention, a B.C. jury has found 44-year-old Aydin Coban guilty of extorting and harassing B.C. teen, Amanda Todd.

Coban was found guilty of extortion, harassment, communication with a young person to commit a sexual offence and possession and distribution of child pornography. The jury presiding over his trial in the B.C. Supreme Court handed down its unanimous verdict one day after deliberations got underway.

Cheers of “yes” rang out from the teenager’s mother and supporters when the verdict was read out. Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, smiled through tears as the jury confirmed the verdict was unanimous.

Coban, who wore a blue button-down shirt and dark trousers, pursed his lips as the verdict was read out but otherwise showed little emotion. He craned his neck to look at the jury walking out of the room.

Jurors posed two questions earlier in the day, but delivered their verdict minutes after receiving answers.

Justice Martha Devlin said the Crown and defence are scheduled to meet Aug. 11 to set a date for sentencing.

Todd was 15 years old when she took her own life 2012 after posting a YouTube video that described being tormented by an online harasser. Her plea and subsequent death shone a light on the issue of online harassment and cyberbullying.

Coban threatened to show explicit photos of the Port Coquitlam teen to her friends and family unless she performed sexual acts in front of a web camera.

At the start of the trial in June, Coban pleaded not guilty to all charges he faced. He was not charged in relation to Todd’s death.

The mother of Amanda Todd tells CityNews that today justice was served.

“This day has been the best day since Amanda was born, ” said Carol. “This day, Amanda’s voice shone through.”

“Today were words that really were joyous to my heart. And we’re doing all this for Amanda.”

RELATED: Sextortion boom coincides with pandemic’s online shift, as experts raise alarm

Todd hopes her daughter’s case brings increased awareness of the devastating impacts of “sextortion.” Since the death of her daughter, she has become an anti-bullying advocate, making it her goal to get others engaged on the conversation of bullying.

Todd says her daughter was “disabled” by depression and anxiety caused by what a Crown prosecutor called a persistent online campaign of harassment, before her suicide.

“I know of a family who lost their son to sextortion … the son died by suicide in February,” said Todd. “We need to ensure that we have all the educational resources out there so that people are aware of what it is, how to deal with it, where to report it, and just have it an open conversation.”

The Amanda Todd Legacy Society is a non-profit created by Carol Todd to create availability of resources for mental health and internet safety.

The Crown presented binders full of 80 exhibits and more than 30 witnesses, including some who testified via Zoom from the Netherlands.

Crown lawyer Louise Kenworthy told the jury in closing arguments that two hard drives seized from the Dutch man’s home had connections to Amanda Todd, including a deleted bookmark to child pornography depicting the girl.

An RCMP officer testified he found “actual fragments of chat” between Todd and several of the online aliases used to harass her on a device seized from Coban’s home.

After piecing together the evidence in closing arguments, Kenworthy said the only inference the jury could draw was that Coban was guilty.

His defence didn’t call any witnesses in the case and his lawyer Joseph Saulnier told the jury in closing arguments that fragments of data cited by police at the trial could not link Coban to the extortion or harassment of Todd.

A Dutch court approved Coban’s extradition to Canada after his trial there on similar allegations.

Coban was sentenced to almost 11 years in prison after a trial in Amsterdam in 2017 for cyberbullying dozens of young girls and gay men.

He was convicted of fraud and internet blackmail and given the maximum sentence of 10 years and eight months, for what Dutch legal authorities said was “the devastating consequences of his behaviour” on the lives of his victims.

That court heard that Coban pretended to be a boy or girl and persuaded his victims to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam, then posted the images online or blackmailed them by threatening to do so. He was accused of abusing 34 girls and five gay men, behaviour the court called “astonishing.” In some cases, the abuse lasted years.

Defence lawyer Saulnier said he was “disappointed” with the verdict.

“This is not what we hoped for or expected. It’s not the verdict we expected at all on any of the five counts,” he said. “Now we need to consider our options. So, we’ll speak to our client. An appeal is a possibility, but we need some time to decide.”

Through the nine weeks of the trial, Todd’s mother said she wore sparkly shoes and nail paint in the purple shade that was her daughter’s favourite.

She sat behind Coban throughout the trial and glanced at him when the verdict was read.

Todd said she was “satisfied” that he knew she was in that room.

Her daughter would have turned 26 on Nov. 27 this year. She said she will have a drink in her honour on Saturday evening, although she hasn’t decided what it will be. She has been thinking about her daughter’s favourite foods, which included peanut butter straight from the jar, mac and cheese and pizza.

“She was a teenager,” her mother said with a laugh.

Carol Todd will start working on her victim impact statement, and is looking forward to a vacation in three weeks.

“It was a tough case.”

With files from Monika Gul and The Canadian Press

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