Defense lawyer in Amanda Todd’s cyberbullying case says sharing link is ‘not child pornography’

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A defense attorney for a Dutch man accused of stalking and extorting a British Columbia teenager, Amanda Todd, has said sharing a link is “not child pornography”.

Joseph Saulnier told the jury in Aydin Coban’s trial in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that there is evidence that a video titled “AmandaTodd.wmv” was played on a device seized from his client’s home, but was not stored as a data file.

Coban pleaded not guilty to extortion, harassment, communicating with a youth to commit a sexual offense and possession of child pornography in relation to the teenager from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

In his closing arguments, Saulnier said the evidence does not support the existence of a child pornography data file of the alleged victim on the digital devices seized by Dutch police.

Earlier in the trial, Crown prosecutor Marcel Daigle cited testimony from a Dutch officer who said a deleted video file called ‘AmandaTodd.wmv’ was played on one of the devices in December 2010, corresponding to a time when Todd was being actively harassed.

But Saulnier said the evidence “does not support the existence of a child pornography data file on Amanda Todd.”

The video was sent as a link, but there was no evidence that it was stored as data on the seized devices, Saulnier told the jury on the second day of their closing arguments.

“Can you look at this and be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that you possess a child pornography data file? No,” he said.

Crown attorney Louise Kenworthy concluded her closing arguments on Tuesday, saying there was a “treasure trove of information” linking Coban to Todd’s harassment and extortion.

However, Saulnier said on Tuesday, “fragments” of computer data cited by police cannot link the Dutchman to Todd’s harassment and extortion.

He told the jury that the identity of the person behind the messages and the extortion cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Crown prosecutors allege Coban is behind more than 20 anonymous online accounts that repeatedly harassed and extorted Todd for sexually explicit photos and videos.

On Wednesday, Saulnier argued there was no evidence definitively linking the online accounts.

Throughout the trial, the Crown presented several pieces of evidence, including messages from anonymous accounts to Todd asking him to do “sex shows” or the stalker would send explicit photos of Todd to friends and family.

“I agree it’s not a coincidence. It doesn’t mean it’s the same person,” he told the jury.

The defense attorney argued that the differences in writing style and punctuation were evidence that different people could be behind the different accounts harassing Todd.

Saulnier also told the jury that various Facebook accounts targeting Todd ran on internet browsers not found on the seized devices.

“This is a significant flaw in Crown’s theory,” he said. “It’s actually proof that people are accessing those Facebook accounts from other devices, from other computers, proof that other people are using those Facebook accounts.”

No Facebook cookies were found on the devices seized, Saulnier said Wednesday, referring to data elements that websites use to track users and their preferences.

“Even if you manually or automatically delete your cookies for privacy reasons, this [deleted] cookie, it goes in the deleted space,’ he said.

“Finding a fragment does not mean that whoever had this device is the author of the message.”

Saulnier also maintained that the devices seized from Coban’s home did not necessarily belong to him.

“My argument in evidence was that he repaired computers. He was a computer scientist,” he told the jury. “It makes sense that Mr. Coban, if he’s looking at someone else’s device, connects it to something.”

All of this evidence points to someone else and not Coban who was involved in the teenager’s harassment and extortion, he said.

“On all counts, the Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Coban is the author of these messages. They have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Coban committed these offences. I call on you to acquit Mr. Coban.”

Judge Martha Devlin is due to give her final instructions to the jury on Friday before they begin deliberations.

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