Former Capital Pride board member Elliott Youden says it was easier to plead guilty to a charge of extortion than to fight it in court.
Youden was charged with extortion and aggravated sexual assault in the fall of 2014. At his bail hearing on Oct 1, it was revealed that he tried to extort $500 from a 16-year-old in exchange for not outing him to his family and friends on social media.
“It was never my intention to extort him,” Youden tells Daily Xtra. “The amount was only for $200 — it was really sort of at the lower end of the extortion charge,” he says, adding that the charge is “insignificant.”
Rather than go to trial, Youden pleaded guilty to the charge of extortion and was sentenced on Nov 24, 2014, to 90 days in jail and two years probation; a ten-year weapons ban; and to provide a DNA sample. The charge of aggravated sexual assault was withdrawn. The court determined that Youden had already served the equivalent of 90 days, as he had spent 59 days in pre-sentence custody.
“I would have had to go back to jail and spend a lot of money on lawyer’s fees and go through the entire court process in order to fight the charges,” Youden says.
Since Youden pleaded guilty and the court proceedings have subsequently finished, Daily Xtra can report other details of the case. A transcript of both the bail hearing and the sentencing hearing were obtained from the Ottawa courthouse. Youden could not discuss some particulars of the case because of the conditions of his probation.
Youden met the victim after responding to a personal ad on Craigslist, according to testimony given by Detective Anne Menard at Youden’s Oct 1 bail hearing.
“There was exchange of text messages and emails concerning some sexual acts that was going to partake between the two of them,” Menard said.
Youden and the victim had planned to meet, but the victim got “cold feet” and tried to cancel the meeting. That’s when Youden became “upset” and forwarded the victim screenshots of his own Facebook page, demanding sex and money unless they met as planned, according to Menard.
“Initially Mr Youden requested to have $500. Initially the young male . . . refused to pay and was ignoring the text messages. Mr Youden was persistent to the point where the young person got scared that he was going to be exposed and everything was going to be on the internet and on social media,” Menard told the court.
“At that point he advised Mr Youden that he did not have $500 but could possibly come up with $200.”
The victim did eventually go to Youden’s apartment to deliver the cash, after which there was an altercation and Youden says he was stabbed in the torso. Police were called, and Youden was later arrested after he had been transported to hospital. Daily Xtra could not confirm if there were any additional charges related to the stabbing.
According to Menard’s testimony at the bail hearing, at least two other complainants had allegedly reported that Youden had made similar attempts to extort them. Menard initially said that Youden had received an official warning about extortion stemming from one report on April 28, 2014, but clarified during the cross-examination that police tried to officially warn him on May 9, 2014, after Youden allegedly tried to contact the complainant again. However, the investigating officer could not reach Youden’s phone as it was disconnected, and considered him warned from the April 28 conversation.
“Both of those stories, again, are untrue,” Youden says, without further elaboration. Youden was never charged in relation to either of those allegations. An Ottawa Police Service spokesperson told Daily Xtra they would not comment on whether there are any current open investigations involving Youden.
For his part, Youden is frustrated with the publicity the case has brought him.
“This entire thing has been awful for me,” he says. “The type of stuff that has been printed in the mainstream media with absolutely no evidence has been horrendous. My name has been completely ruined.”
He also alleges that he was mistreated while in custody and was treated unfairly.
“While I was in the custody of the Ottawa police, I was mocked by a female officer, using sort of a gay voice to mock something that I had said to her,” he says.
“Also, while I was under the care of the Ottawa police, I had to be returned to the civic hospital to receive medical attention because I had received very little nourishment and suffered extreme dehydration under their care.”
Constable Chuck Benoit, a media spokesperson for the Ottawa Police, told Daily Xtra that the department was unable to comment, as Youden had not filed an official complaint.
For his part, Youden says he believes everything that has happened to him was retaliation for being critical of the police during his last trial.
“I was part of a protest on Parliament Hill about HIV criminalization. I’ve been very outspoken about HIV criminalization in general. And so I really think that this was retribution,” he says.
Youden was acquitted of a separate charge of aggravated sexual assault in June 2014, stemming from a 2010 incident. Ontario Superior Court Justice Monique Métivier found him not guilty after the complainant failed to recall key elements of the encounter and did not produce an email from Youden that allegedly contained an apology. Justice Métivier said at the time that the testimony of both the accused and complainant lacked credibility.
The 2010 case required two trials, after the first ended in a mistrial because of an undisclosed jury issue.