Newfoundland high school teacher used nefarious and sinister tactics to cover up student sexual abuse, Crown alleges; defense says Noel Strapp is credible and should be acquitted
Noel Strapp’s lawyer pleaded for an acquittal on Friday, November 5, urging the court to accept the high school teacher as credible, credible and not guilty of sexual assault and exploitation of a student.
The Crown argued that Strapp’s testimony was self-serving, illogical and indicative of behavior one would expect of a teacher trying to keep his sexual abuse of a teenage boy secret.
The attorneys presented their closing arguments to Provincial Court Judge Phyllis Harris in St. John’s, after a week of testimony at the trial of Strapp, 39.
A former student, now 22, testified that she was 16, and a member of the sports teams Strapp coached, when they began a sexual relationship. She alleged that Strapp had groomed her since 7th grade, sharing private sex texts and exchanges on SnapChat, where shared content is permanently deleted.
The complainant testified that she and Strapp engaged in sexual activity at school, in their respective vehicles, and at his home when his wife was away, including in her children’s bedrooms. The relationship ended, she said, when she was a freshman in college.
No evidence: lawyer
Defense lawyer Ian Patey tried to poke holes in the woman’s evidence on Friday, saying her allegations of SnapChat conversations were unfounded with no posts to prove it.
“Lack of evidence is not evidence,” Patey said.
A handful of text messages that were presented as evidence appeared to be sexual, but were just examples of the regular “jokes” Strapp and his young athletes often indulged in, Patey said.
“There was no power or control for sexual purposes here,” he said. “It’s not supported by evidence.”
Patey recapped his client’s own testimony, saying the plaintiff grew close to Strapp and his family, spending time at their home, but never without his wife present. Jennifer Strapp had testified that she hardly ever left the house and never had any issues with her now estranged husband’s relationship with the teenager.
Strapp had described his relationship with the plaintiff as brotherly, Patey pointed out. The complainant had acknowledged her own “peculiar sexual sense of humor” and texted Strapp with suggestions for sex acts, to which he replied “Delete” because they were inappropriate, Patey said.
What the plaintiff described as angry manipulation was that Strapp was trying to get the best out of her as an athlete, Patey argued. A piggyback ride was no way to cultivate his confidence, but Strapp wore it when his feet were covered in blisters, he said. Forming a relationship outside of school was not an opportunity for Strapp to abuse the teenager, but the way he and his wife had tried to help her through a difficult time, Patey said.
“Mr. Strapp’s testimony is consistent with common sense,” Patey said. “The plaintiff’s evidence does not.”
Hidden behavior: Crown
Prosecutor Jessica Gallant questioned why Strapp would simply reply “Delete” to a minor’s sexual texts instead of telling them they were inappropriate and not engage with her again, suggesting he wanted them deleted so no one else sees them.
If Strapp had actually thought of the plaintiff as a sister, he wouldn’t have joked with her about sex acts, Gallant said, and some of the texts didn’t fit the “joking” defense.
She quoted one written by the plaintiff in the middle of class, telling Strapp, “I saw your nice ass when I went to the office”, and asking him to remember a sex act “at the basement.” ground”.
“At worst, it’s actual evidence of a sexual act that took place between the parties,” Gallant said.
Gallant suggested Strapp went to great lengths to hide his crimes from everyone, including his wife. He had a “sinister nature and a very nefarious approach to making sure that this abuse was kept secret, this abuse was hidden, and this abuse couldn’t be discovered by anyone else,” Gallant suggested.
Complainant’s teammates testified that they noticed that she and Strapp spent a lot of time together, and that Strapp sometimes acted “cold” to the teenager and “harassed” her.
“What we say happened here, and what the evidence supports, is that Mr. Strapp carried out this abuse in a very secretive way and in a way that, given his control and his influence on the victim, he succeeded in doing,” Gallant said.
Harris will make his decision on Dec. 17.