The trial of Curtis Sagmoen heard the final submissions from defence and Crown on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 at the Vernon Law Courts. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Sagmoen trial awaits judge’s decision

Crown’s case hinges on circumstantial evidence regarding Sagmoen’s identity

The trial of Curtis Sagmoen is nearing its conclusion as Crown and defence made their final submissions in BC Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Sagmoen is accused of having threatened a sex trade worker with a firearm while wearing a mask at his family’s Salmon River Road property in August 2017. On Tuesday, the court heard from the alleged victim and complainant in the trial, who recounted the incident before the court.

The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, described a night that saw her drive to Salmon River Road to meet with a person who had responded to an ad for her escort service by text.

When the complainant arrived at Salmon River Road, she received another text. The person she planned to meet said he mistakenly gave her his old address and he now resided further up the road. She drove to the new location, following the person’s texted instructions.

The complainant said she stopped in front of a bridge on a driveway that was blocked by a closed gate. She got out of her car and heard a rustling in the bushes before a man emerged holding a shotgun.

The woman had to race to her vehicle but the man was in tow. She said he came to the driver’s side of the vehicle and pointed the weapon through the open window. She reportedly pushed the gun away with her hand and escaped the vehicle and ran, barefoot, and hid near a neighbouring property until daybreak. She said she had lost her sandals during the incident.

“I was afraid he was going to shoot me,” she said on Tuesday. “I’m forever grateful that I’m not dead.”

READ MORE: Threats charge dropped in Curtis Sagmoen trial

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At Wednesday’s hearing defence lawyer Lisa Helps had no intention of denying that it was her client who texted the complainant asking her to meet him on Salmon River Road for a “playdate” in August 2017.

“I’m not going to be arguing that there’s no link between Curtis Sagmoen and the person texting the complainant. In fact, I think that that has been well established.”

Instead, her focus was on whether Sagmoen was, beyond reasonable doubt, the masked assailant. She argued that complaints of theft from neighbours around the time of the offence indicated there was more suspicious activity in the area than the Crown was conceding.

Crown attorney Simone McCallum was direct in arguing there could be no other reasonable inference than that Sagmoen — a man with a documented history of having contact with sex workers, who was familiar with the property and had experience with firearms — was the assailant.

McCallum reminded the court of the complainant’s description of her assailant: that he had emerged from the bushes just as she pulled up to a closed gate at the property and got out of her car. Shortly before that she had received a text asking her to wait 15 minutes so her customer could get ready.

“That has all the hallmarks of somebody who is expecting their target to arrive,” she said.

“The rational inference here, as I said at the beginning, is that (the complainant’s) assailant is her customer. And her customer was Mr. Sagmoen.”

McCallum conceded that the complainant’s testimony did not provide much in the way of identifying Sagmoen. The incident had taken place around 11:30 p.m., and the complainant said she had been unable to see much of anything in the dark.

With no smoking gun in terms of a clear identification of Sagmoen at the scene, the Crown’s case will hinge on circumstantial evidence.

“The Crown must point the court to other circumstantial indications of identity,” McCallum said.

At the start of the hearing Sagmoen’s charge of uttering threats was dropped, on the basis that the complainant could not recall her assailant having said anything, as she said in her testimony the previous day.

Justice Alison Beames will make her decision on Friday, Dec. 20, at 10 a.m.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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