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Accused in Amanda Todd cyberbullying case alleged to have used 22 accounts to sextort teen

WARNING: This article contains details some readers may find disturbing.

The message to Amanda Todd arrived through YouTube in April 2011.

The name of the sender was new. But the language and threats were familiar: “I am back … Miss me? … How is your new school? … I have a new flash video of you.”

Todd, who would have been 14 years old at the time, was offered two choices.

“Pick. Door one — you do five shows for me, 30 minutes each and then I disappear forever,” the message continued.

“Door two — I f–k up your life at this new school just like last time. One week to decide.”

The threat was read into the record in B.C. Supreme Court Monday along with others sent through Facebook, Skype and other forms of social media on the first day of the trial of the man accused of “sextorting” Amanda Todd.

The messages allegedly followed the teen through the internet as she moved from school to school between 2009 and 2012.

Crown prosecutor Louise Kenworthy told the jury the assortment of threats, demands and deadlines came from 22 different user accounts.

But she claimed they were all ultimately controlled by one man: Aydin Coban.

‘You’re going to do as you’re told’

The 43-year-old is charged with possession of child pornography, extortion, child luring and harassment of Todd, who became a public face in the fight against cyberbullying after her death by suicide in October 2012. He is not charged with her death. 

Coban, who was extradited from the Netherlands to B.C. in December 2020 to face trial, watched Kenworthy deliver her opening remarks from the prisoner’s box, where he sat in an open-necked black shirt, grey hair slicked back to a point just above his collar.

Aydin Coban sat in the prisoner’s box as he watched Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, testify on the first day of his trial in New Westminster. (Jane Wolsak)

The trial began with a court clerk reading each of the five charges aloud, and Coban standing to enter a plea of “not guilty” to each.

The prosecutor described Coban as a sextortionist: “someone who extorts another person and who demands a sex act of some kind.”

She laid out a scheme in which the accused allegedly used an array of phony user names and social media accounts during four separate episodes in which he threatened to send graphic pictures of Todd to family, schoolmates and teachers unless she agreed to perform “sex shows.”

Kenworthy said Coban also allegedly used other accounts to pose as teenaged boys and would-be friends in order to elicit more material that he could use for sextortion.

“Last chance or I start sending the videos to everyone in your Facebook, school and newspapers in your city,” one message read.

“Look cam whore — enough nice guy act … you’re going to do as you’re told or I f–k up your life bad,” read another.

Kenworthy said graphic images of Todd were sent through Facebook accounts to lists of users who included members of her family and hundreds of people associated with the teenager’s high school.

She read an email from one account pretending to belong to an employee of an “independent online child protection agency.”

‘I understood what we were seeing’

An array of witnesses are expected to testify over the course of the seven-week trial, including Amanda Todd’s parents, a friend, a teacher and the police officers who investigated the case.

Kenworthy said the trial would also hear from Dutch police officers who raided Coban’s home in the Netherlands in 2013 and 2014, seizing a desktop computer, a laptop and hard drives. 

Carol Todd, the mother of Amanda Todd, was the first witness to take the stand at the trial of the man accused of cyberbullying her daughter. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

She said forensic examination of the computer equipment showed that while a lot of information had been deleted, files linking Coban to the phony usernames and accounts still remained, as did traces of videos that had contained the name Amanda Todd.

Carol Todd was the first witness to take the stand.

She began her testimony by identifying herself as Amanda Todd’s mother. She also confirmed the date of her daughter’s death and identified her from a school picture posted to courtroom screens, including one directly in front of Coban.

Todd said her daughter loved to sing and learned at an early age how to take videos of herself and post them online.

“It was a time when Justin Bieber became famous online and Amanda like many other people wanted to become famous — just like Justin Bieber,” she said.

Todd described receiving a message from a stranger in December 2010 with a link to a graphic image: “I clicked it and I saw what it was … and I think my heart skipped a beat but I knew enough that I needed to capture it,” she said.

The RCMP became involved and more emails and more links followed — including one to an adult pornography website where images of Amanda Todd had been posted.

“It was a link to a video … it was her topless … shirtless … Did I click on the link to further watch any part of the video? No,” Todd said.

“I understood what we were seeing … what had been done was child pornography.”

‘She was scared. She was frightened’

As time passed, and the family met with police, Todd said her daughter’s anxiety level rose. She felt guilt and shame and worried about getting into trouble.

“She was scared. She was frightened, and with Amanda, when she got anxious, she just escalated. She wanted something done about it,” Todd said.

“With each piece of messaging that she received, her distress increased, because at the time she felt she was being followed, stalked by someone that was unknown.”

On her way into the courtroom, Todd said she intended to serve as her daughter’s voice. She wore a snowflake necklace as a reminder of a child who was as unique as she was beloved.

Aydin Coban’s lawyer, Joseph Saulnier, also spoke to the media outside the New Westminster courthouse.

He said he has confidence the jury will reach the right decision in the case. But he said the publicity surrounding Amanda Todd’s death is a challenge.

“There’s no doubt that Amanda Todd was the victim of a lot of crimes. This case is about who was behind that,” he told reporters.

“All of the people who have heard about this story, who think they know what this is is about, who had read things or heard things that might not be accurate — that’s where I hope people can keep and open mind and actually listen to the evidence at trial.”

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