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Accuser takes the stand in Vernon teacher trial

Ryan Furmanek owns Furmanek Jewelers, and testified Tuesday he engraved a bracelet brought to him by Ashton.
March 13, 2013 - 2:42 PM

UPDATE: 5 p.m. March 13

By Charlotte Helston

The perjury trial of former Vernon teacher Deborah Ashton, 48, grinded on today with Crown lawyer Don Mann going through six months of daycare attendance records for Ashton's son.

The records relate to Ashton's second count of perjury, which alleges she lied when she testified she always picked her son up from daycare. The other count pertains to a bracelet engraved with the words "I go with you". 

While on the stand, the complainant, who cannot be named due to court order, said Ashton gave him the bracelet on his birthday. The inscription meant she would always always be with him, even if she wasn't physically around him. As the alleged victim recalls, he wasn't the only person to get a gift that day. His brother, like him, received a black MP3 player.

According to the witness, Ashton was a regular visitor to the household, often bringing her children over with her. The accuser said she brought his family many gifts, including a basket of bread and wine for his parents. He also testified that when his parents weren't around, he and his teacher had "sexual activities." But the details of that alleged affair are not permitted in this trial—Ashton was acquitted of sexually assaulting her young student last year.

Harris wrapped up his interrogation of the accuser Wednesday afternoon, and Mann called his fourth witness to the stand. 

Gail Cunningham owns Brer Rabbit Daycare, where Ashton's son attended from January to June, 2004.

Cunningham said while a staff member usually picked the child up from kindergarten at 11 a.m. and signed him in, it was always a guardian who picked him up and initial the attendance sheet.

When Mann asked who picked up the child, Cunningham said: "His mom. Sometimes his dad and sometimes his sister."

As she remembers, parents had to pick their kids up by 5 p.m., though she admitted her closing hours have changed over the past nine years.

Ashton's defense lawyer G. Jack Harris broke in to say going through every page of attendance records was unnecessary.

"It is indisputable my client sometimes picked up her son," Harris said. "The question of perjury is did she always pick him up, and that is not supported by the records, I admit that."

Mann insisted it was important to identify who the signatures belonged to, and said only Cunningham could do that. It appeared the majority of signatures belonged to Ashton.

Mann has yet to call Ashton's ex-husband to the stand. He is expected to be the Crown's final witness.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call (250)309-5230

 

UPDATE: 1 p.m. March 13

By Charlotte Helston

The boy who accused former Vernon teacher Deborah Ashton, 48, of sexually assaulting him is now a 23-year-old man, and he took the witness stand today in what is now her third trial. His identity remains concealed due to court order.

Ashton is charged with two counts of perjury, one for allegedly lying in court about giving a bracelet to the complainant, and one for allegedly lying about how often she picked her son up from daycare. Ashton's statements were made under oath when she stood accused of sexually assaulting the accuser, who was in grade seven when the relationship allegedly began.

Ashton's first trial ended with a hung jury, and proceeded to a second trial by judge alone. That judge acquitted her of the charges.

Crown lawyer Don Mann says the perjury charges are not an attempt to re-open the original case, but Ashton's defense lawyer G. Jack Harris seems to think differently.

During the complainant's testimony, Mann asked him to explain the relationship he had with Ashton in order to provide context for the bracelet—a silver bangle inscribed with the words "I go with you." The complainant said the bracelet was a gift he received from Ashton.

Harris said Mann's question about the relationship trod too close to something resembling a re-trial. During his opening statement Tuesday Harris said, "This is not a sexual assault case, been there done that."

Supreme Court Justice Geoff Barrow said Mann could ask the complainant questions about where he went with Ashton and how often, but said details of the alleged affair were to be avoided.

The complainant appeared quite relaxed on the witness stand, chuckling candidly about aspects of his life that fall outside the trial. He thinks Ashton gave him the bracelet on his birthday along with a silver necklace and a black MP3 player which he was thrilled to receive.

He remembers Ashton explaining the inscription: "Something about even though she's not always around me, she'll always be with me."

Under cross examination, he admitted he didn't really want the bracelet and hardly ever wore it. He said he had similar "religious" bracelets from his mother that he stopped wearing around grade five.

Harris suggested the bracelet, which he said is child-sized, was given to him by his mother. He suggested Ashton later had it engraved.

Harris wondered aloud why the complainant remembered so vividly the moment Ashton gave him the gift but can't recall other details from his birthday—what day of the week it was, what he did in the morning, if there was a cake, what he got from his family, what time Ashton got there and how long she stayed.

"Birthdays aren't a big thing in my family," the complainant said, adding he put the bracelet in a box under his bed and forgot about it for many years.

The bracelet never saw the light of day until Ashton's sexual assault trial began. The complainant said former Crown lawyer Neil Flanagan told him to bring the bracelet to his witness testimony in 2011. Before that, he didn't show it to anyone from the school district, the RCMP, or anyone in the legal system.

Towards the second count of perjury, the complainant said Ashton wouldn't have been able to pick up her son every day from daycare—like she claimed she did—because she was often with him. She was with him at least once a week, he said, often more. He said Ashton took him for fast food, to movies, and sometimes just hung out with him at his home. Sometimes his parents were there, sometimes they weren't.

"Most of the time, she would say she was there to tutor me," he said. "If we were home alone, we'd have sexual activities."

When Mann asked him if it was possible for Ashton to have picked up her son every day, the complainant said "no, I don't believe that's possible, not every single day, every single week."

Harris will continue his cross examination of the complainant this afternoon.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call (250)309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
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