This story was originally published on Oct. 15, 2018 and has been updated.
Wednesday marked the six court date for Jacob Hoggard, and once again Hedley’s former front man was a no-show, with the case put over to December 19. A judicial pre-trial date was set for December 10.
For anyone in need of a quick refresher: Hoggard, 34, was the lead singer of the Abbotsford, B.C., pop-punk band Hedley — a Canadian Idol finalist who had a bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold image and the female fan base to go with it. Then, last winter, while the band was in the middle of a cross-Canada tour, allegations of improper sexual conduct by Hoggard began to surface. By early March, two women had accused Hoggard of rape, and several others shared stories of alleged abuse and harassment.
The fallout from one of Canada’s most significant #MeToo moments was massive: The CBC banned Hedley from its airwaves, opening acts dropped out of the band's tour, and the Toronto Police announced an official investigation. But even as the band fell apart (Hedley announced an “indefinite hiatus”) and despite police charging Hoggard with two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference involving a minor under 16, many of Hoggard’s devoted fans have continued to stick by him.
It’s members of this diehard #IStandWithHedley camp who are taking the string of deferments in Hoggard's case as a clear sign that the prosecution must not have enough evidence to move forward. While those who support his accusers (#OutHedley2K18) wonder if the defendant is getting an easy ride based on his celebrity status. So what’s actually going on here?
R29 spoke to a legal expert back in October to get an insider's perspective on why a case like this one keeps getting put over, what this might tell us about a future plea, and whether Hoggard will ever show his face in court.
Hoggard’s case has been “put over” five times now. What does that even mean? And what’s the hold up?
When a court date is put over, it’s an adjournment that essentially hits the pause button on the case, and it’s “completely normal,” says Alison Craig, a Toronto-based criminal defence attorney at Lockyer Campbell Posner. The case against Hoggard is currently in set-date court, which is like the planning committee for criminal proceedings, where the prosecution must share any and all “disclosure” (legal lingo for evidence) with the defence. That could be video statements, police notes, forensic testing, whatever. A case is put over when this exchange isn’t complete. “It never happens quickly — the system is extremely inefficient, but it has nothing to do with this particular case,” says Craig. After the most recent court date, prosecutors said they have now turned over most of the disclosure.
Why not just put the case over for a few months then?
Because Hoggard, like any defendant, is constitutionally entitled to a trial within a reasonable time. The prosecution would never want to leave something on hold for an extended period, says Craig, because “that could weigh heavily against them should the case take too long.”
So it’s not Hoggard who’s putting off a potential trial?
No. And in fact, says Craig, it’s likely that he would prefer to get things moving: “Most defendants want to have their day in court and find the drawn-out process frustrating.”
And it doesn’t mean that there’s not enough evidence to move forward?
Nope, not that either. The fact that the case has come this far means both the Toronto Police (who laid the charges) and the Crown (who is pursuing them) believe there’s enough evidence to pursue the case. And that it will almost certainly go to trial unless Hoggard pleads guilty or both sides agree to a plea bargain.
Could the hold-up be good for the prosecution? Like the police have so much evidence they’re still going through it or still interviewing witnesses?
That’s also incredibly unlikely, and the truth sounds a lot less like a dramatic legal thriller. “It’s generally not a continuing investigation that makes disclosure drag on,” says Craig. Police have to organize everything, vet everything, copy everything, and then the same thing has to happen all over again at the Crown’s office.
Hoggard has yet to show his face in court. How come?
Despite a whole lot of speculation on social media, the fact that he has yet to appear in person is neither a good or bad sign. It’s “totally normal” during this stage, says Craig, for a lawyer to appear on behalf of their client, and in fact, the opposite would be unusual. “I expect the only time you would see him appear will be at a trial or if he decides to plead guilty, in both of those cases, he is required to be there.”
So then his failure to appear has nothing to do with his celebrity status?
“Nothing,” says Craig. This is typical for any criminal case, and it's like that Hoggard’s fame is the only reason anyone has noticed.
Could a trial be put over indefinitely?
No. Eventually it would be moved in front of a judge, who would either push it forward or stay the charges (in other words, drop the case) based on delays. In this scenario, the Crown gets one year to reopen it, but that’s not what Craig sees happening with Hoggard’s case: “I think we are probably getting close to the next stage. Usually after about three or four appearances there’s enough disclosure to move forward.”
Can we make any predictions about how Hoggard will plead when the case does move forward?
“It doesn’t strike me as the kind of case that’s going to have a guilty plea,” says Craig. “What celebrity pleads guilty to this kind of thing?” And by that she means both that celebrities aren’t in the habit of admitting fault, but also that sexual assault cases often come down to he said/she said, and charges are extremely difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.