After several delays caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the sex assault trial of Canadian artist Jacob Hoggard has finally begun.
Hoggard was in a downtown Toronto courtroom Monday, clad in a dark suit, while a judge addressed a few procedural concerns in the case. The jury selection process is expected to start on Wednesday.
A witness to Monday’s proceedings afterwards raised a sign outside the courtroom expressing support for Hoggard and the band he headed, Hedley. Even when Hoggard was not there, some fans had already attended sessions early in the case in 2018.
During a two-day preliminary hearing in the summer of 2019, Hoggard pled not guilty to sexual assault inflicting bodily damage and sexual interference.
He opted for a jury trial rather than a judge-only trial, and his trial was set to begin in January 2021.
During the pandemic, however, public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 forced the courts to put new jury trials on hold for months at a time, and the trial was repeatedly postponed.
It will now run until the beginning of June.
Hoggard was arrested and charged in 2018 for alleged occurrences in the Toronto area in 2016 involving a woman and a teenager, according to police. Due to a publication ban, neither the complainants nor multiple witnesses can be identified.
After reports surfaced that Hoggard had illicit contacts with teenage admirers, police launched an investigation.
Long before his arrest, the artist issued a statement denying any non-consensual sexual behaviour. However, he admitted to acting in a way that “objectified women” and was “careless and inconsiderate of their sentiments.”
Following the allegations, Hedley was dropped by his management team and blacklisted by various radio stations, and he has been on indefinite leave since 2018.