"WE THOUGHT THE COURT WOULD CHOOSE TO USE ITS TIME AND RESOURCES FOR SOMETHING ELSE"
By Charlotte Helston
A former Vernon elementary school teacher returned to B.C. Supreme Court today facing two counts of perjury for two statements made in an earlier trial.
Deborah Ashton, 48, was back for her third trial on the same matter, even if the charges are vastly different. At her first trial, she was accused of several charges in relation to a young student from 2002 to 2005, including sexual assault. When a jury failed to reach a verdict after trial in 2011, a new trial was ordered and in 2012, she was found not guilty by a Supreme Court judge alone.
The Crown now alleges Ashton lied when she testified in 2011 when she testified she never saw a bracelet the student claimed was a gift from her. The bracelet is engraved with the words "I go with you" and Ryan Furmanek, the jeweler who engraved it, testified in court today. While he can't put Ashton's face to the transaction, he was able to produce a receipt for the engraving which bore Ashton's name and phone number.
Crown lawyer Don Mann also argues Ashton lied to the court when she said she always dropped off and picked up her son from daycare. Ashton's ex-husband and the daycare owner will be called later this week.
Though the charges Ashton faces today are different from those she was acquitted of two years ago, she believes the Crown is attempting to reopen its initial case.
Ashton's lawyer G. Jack Harris questioned Crown witness Const. Susan Kolibaba on the details of her investigation into the origin of the bracelet. He asked her why she didn't record several of her interviews, including one with Ashton's ex-husband. Harris read aloud her earlier testimony, when she said she visited the ex-husband "to have him come on board the Crown's case."
"(You) thought you would try to commandeer someone onto a case, especially the Crown's," Harris said.
When Harris asked Kolibaba why she didn't record the interview, she said she was afraid it would intimidate him and deter him from "getting on board." For another interview, Kolibaba said she "totally forgot" to bring her recorder.
Harris suggested Kolibaba's interviews were selective, pointing out that she didn't question Ashton's teacher partner.
"I talked to so many teachers," Kolibaba said.
"Then where are the statements?" Harris asked.
Furmanek said he engraved the bracelet but didn't sell it—Ashton brought it to him. The Crown led no evidence of where the bracelet was from. Harris said Kolibaba didn't look hard enough, and she agreed she didn't check all Vernon jewelry stores. Harris then accused Kolibaba of asking prejudicial questions in her interviews. He said if she was fair to Ashton, she would have phrased her questions differently, and not shown a photo of Ashton during the interview.
Harris also emphasized factual mistakes Kolibaba had made during her 2011 testimony. The officer gave wrong dates for when the investigation began, and told the court she recorded an interview when in fact she didn't.
"I made a mistake," Kolibaba said several times.
"Did you know that answer to be untruthful when you gave it? Was it your intent to mislead the court?" Harris asked, echoing his client's perjury charges. "You were given the opportunity to correct your statement, and you appreciated that?"
Kolibaba agreed she did.
The trial is expected to run four days before Supreme Court Justice Geoff Barrow. The maximum penalty for perjury is 14 years in prison.
Outside court, Ashton questioned why she was in court for a third time.
"We knew what these perjury charges were two years ago," Ashton told InfoTel News. "We thought the court would choose to use its time and resources for something else.... My family is quite exhausted. We're looking forward to a fair and objective conclusion to the ordeal."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230.