Verdict in Yellowknife underage sex trial to come on April 3rd

It has to be close to every parents’ worst nightmare.

You send your teenage daughter off to school in the morning, only to find out she skipped class to go snort cocaine, drink alcohol and have sex with a man pushing twice her age.

But that was exactly the story heard in a Yellowknife courtroom this week.

A trial was held for a Yellowknife man, accused of having sex with young teenage girls at his apartment.

Joshua ‘Taz’ Desjarlais, 27, who has ties to Fort Smith, is facing three counts of sexual assault for allegedly having sex with the girls over a two-week period in September of 2017.

Court heard that two of them were 14 years old at the time while the other was 15.

The charges he faces used to be known as statutory rape but it is no longer called that under the Canadian Criminal Code.

The girls’ names are all protected by a publication ban.

It is believed all three attended high school at the time.

Desjarlais’ defence, at least in part, is that he believed the girls were all of legal age at the time and that the sex was consensual.

The age of consent in Canada to have sex with an adult is 16.

A video was played in court of an interview with Desjarlais by an RCMP officer in which Desjarlais admits to having sex with the girls but says it was consensual and that they told him they were 18 or 19 years old.

One of the victims was on the witness stand Monday where she admitted the sex was “likely” consensual.

She said that she had sex with Desjarlais twice and at one point she told him to stop and he did.

She also testified that she told Desjarlais she was 18 years old.

The girl told the court that Desjarlais provided her with cocaine and alcohol on the days he’s alleged to have had sex with her.

She also testified that one of her friends, also an alleged victim, told her that Desjarlais engaged in group sex with her and one of the other alleged victims.

Her friends had a difficult time testifying.

They started out in court giving evidence from behind a two-way screen that allowed the suspect to see them on the witness stand but the girls couldn’t see him.

They found that intimidating and traumatizing so they were then moved to a separate room in the courthouse where they testified via video,

But both of them fled that room while being questioned by lawyers about the alleged events at the man’s apartment.

It remains to be seen how their lack of testimony might affect the judge’s verdict.

Also in court, it was revealed that Desjarlais sent a letter from jail to the girls, encouraging them not to testify against him. 

Desjarlais remains in custody at least until NWT Supreme Court Judge Shannon Smallwood delivers her verdict, scheduled for April 3rd.

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