Friend says Ashton asked him to lie about trip

Deborah Ashton trial continues with testimony from friend of alleged victim

A friend of the alleged victim in the case of a Vernon teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a former student said the accused had him lie to his teacher about the reason for going on a weekend trip to Vancouver.

The friend, now 21, who can’t be named, said Deborah Louise Ashton told him not to tell his teacher they were going to Vancouver with the alleged victim and two other students to a three-on-three basketball tournament.

“I had an absentee note. Ms. Ashton and I talked about it and she told me not to say we were going to a basketball tournament,” said the friend during questioning from Crown counsel Neil Flanagan. “My parents knew I was going but I was not supposed to tell my teacher.”

Instead, the friend testified, he said he was going to a wedding in the Lower Mainland, the third such time he used that reason for an absentee note in the school year.

Ashton is facing five charges in connection with an alleged sexual relationship with a former student while the student was in her Gr. 7 class and she was vice-principal at a Vernon elementary school.

The relationship is alleged to have carried on for another two years while the student had moved on to secondary school in Vernon.

Ashton pleaded not guilty at the beginning of this, her second trial on the matter. Her first trial in February 2011 ended in a hung jury. She is being tried by judge alone in Vernon Supreme Court.

The friend told judge Alison Beames that he, the alleged victim and two others attended the three-on-three tournament in Vancouver and stayed at a hotel. He said there were two beds in the room – “big enough to sleep two people” – and a cot. The friend told Flanagan he took the cot, that two other boys took one bed and the alleged victim and Ashton took the other.

“I took the bed because I wasn’t interested in sleeping with anyone and I didn’t care where anybody else was sleeping,” said the friend, who added everybody woke up in the same beds, and that he couldn’t recall if Ashton slept under or above the covers.

Ashton’s lawyer, Terry La Liberte, suggested to the friend under cross examination that he was wrong about the trip to Vancouver being a two-night stay.

“In fact, you left Saturday morning, played right away, went back to the hotel and left the next morning,” said La Liberte to the friend.

“I 100 per cent disagree with that,” said the witness.

La Liberte was also upset that the friend remembered “only last Friday” about the absentee note testimony, something he pointed out was never mentioned in any of the friend’s prior evidence.

“After time, you start remembering stories since the last case and this was the only chance I had to tell Mr. Flanagan,” said the witness.

“The operative word is ‘stories,’ isn’t it?” asked La Liberte.

“No,” replied the friend, who said his parents were aware of the tournament, and only “a select few” at school knew they were going to Vancouver to play basketball.

“You’re saying Ms. Ashton wanted you to lie about going and get a phoney note from your mom? asked La Liberte.

That’s what happened,” said the friend, who also testified that Ashton spent time in a cabin with him, the alleged victim and a number of other boys during a year-end school trip to Eagle Bay Camp in the Shuswap.

The friend said he and the others were on single bunk beds, but that the alleged victim took the only double bed in the cabin because “he was the biggest guy.”

The friend testified that, after lights out one night, around 10 or 11 p.m., Ashton came into the cabin, sat on the bed the alleged victim was in, and stayed “for four hours until I fell asleep around 3 a.m.”

“We were just talking and hanging out,” said the friend.

La Liberte wasn’t buying it.

“I suggest you could have fallen asleep and you’re not sure how long she was there,” said La Liberte.

“I disagree,” testified the friend.

The friend corroborated testimony from the alleged victim, saying Ashton took them both, along with others, out to restaurants and movies in Vernon and Kelowna, and that Ashton was a visitor in the alleged victim’s home on a number of occasions. He also said the students went to Ashton’s home “at least 10 times.”

Asked by Flanagan to describe Ashton in Grade 7, the friend said “she was a nice teacher who would do anything for me. I considered her a teacher and I considered her a friend.”

Under cross examination, the friend said Ashton was “the first female friend I had.”

 

The alleged victim’s older brother took the stand late Tuesday afternoon.