This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
A Calgary man who raped a passed out 17-year-old girl, recorded the sexual assault on the victim’s phone, and posted it to Facebook has been sentenced to 26 months in jail.
Drayton Dwayne Preston, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault which took place in July of 2016 and received his sentence this week. CBC reports that, according to an agreed statement of facts, Preston and the victim, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, were partying with some friends in a Calgary home on July 29, 2016. The group included Preston, his girlfriend, the victim, and the victim’s boyfriend. As the night wound down, the victim and her boyfriend, who were drunk at the time, went to a bedroom, had sex and passed out.
Early in the morning, while the victim was sleeping, Preston broke into her bedroom through a window. He then raped the victim, who woke up during the attack but passed out again before the assault ended. About an hour later, she woke up again to Preston beside the bed and pretended to be asleep. According to the CBC, Preston then sexually assaulted her twice more. Afterward, Preston left the house while the victim got up and tearfully told her friends what had happened.
Later on that night, the victim found out that Preston had stolen her phone, taken nude pictures of her, and recorded himself sexually assaulting her. He posted the images and video on Facebook and deleted them from her phone after posting them. The victim found out about this as Preston’s girlfriend, who had seen the posts, mistakenly thought the victim had sent them to Preston.
According to the CBC, the video shows Preston walk up to the victim’s bed “remove the blanket and spread her legs, all while her boyfriend is asleep next to her.” The video goes on to show Preston sexually assaulting her—he also took photos of the victims genitals. In handing down his decision, provincial court Judge Gord Wong, described Preston’s actions as disrespectful.
"It's a fundamental lack of respect for others that you demonstrated," said Wong. "You're not satisfied with committing this sexual offense, you go ahead and use someone else's phone to take photos... send it back to yourself and post it to Facebook."
While the videos and photos were deleted from both the victim’s phone and Facebook by the end of the night of the assault, they were recovered by computer forensics experts.
The case is just the latest in a string of crimes in which evidence found on social media plays a key role in attaining a guilty verdict or plea. In recent years, a manslaughter sentence was handed down after a selfie was used as key evidence, a Kitchener man allegedly confessed to killing his girlfriend on Reddit, and a Virginian woman posted a selfie of herself with a bloody knife in front of her murdered father-in-law.
But photos don’t necessarily secure convictions or even charges. In 2013, Coal Harbour teen Rehtaeh Parsons killed herself after she was allegedly gang-raped two years prior and a photo was taken of the alleged assault and circulated amongst her classmates. The photo resulted in Parsons being bullied; however, in the immediate aftermath of the alleged rape, Crown prosecutors decided not to press charges. The man who took a photo of himself penetrating Parsons while she vomited was eventually given 12 months of probation in 2015.
Lisa Watson—a criminal defense attorney who recently defended a Saskatchewan woman who was found guilty of manslaughter partly due to a selfie showing her with the murder weapon—said evidence like this is becoming more and more common in a courtroom.
“When I first started out, Facebook was around, but it certainly wasn’t something that was common to be seen referenced in court,” Watson previously told VICE. “You would often see judges and more senior lawyers struggling to explain what social media was and how it worked, particularly when we had younger people coming before the court—witnesses and accused.”
“It was all very foreign when social media kind of started exploding onto the scene. Courts now, at least in my experience, are much more familiar with the various social media platforms.”
Preston’s sentence was a joint submission by both the defense and prosecution. Alongside his two-year prison sentence, he will also spend 20 years on the sex offender registry.
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