“While Amanda is not here today, I have heard her words.”
With those words, a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced the Dutch man convicted of harassing and extorting B.C. teen Amanda Todd to 13 years in prison — more than prosecutors had asked for.
Justice Martha Devlin took the unusual step of handing down a longer sentence than what Crown counsel had argued for in the case of Aydin Coban, who is already serving a nearly 11-year term in the Netherlands for similar crimes.
“Ruining Amanda’s life was Mr. Coban’s expressly stated goal and was sadly one that he achieved,” Devlin said in delivering her reasons from her New Westminster courtroom.
“Mr. Coban engaged in a prolonged pattern of sextortion targeting Amanda Todd, a child in her early to mid-teens,” she added.
“Mr. Coban, relying on a high level of technological sophistication, obfuscated his identity, location and activities, gained information about Amanda valuable to his criminal scheme, and emotionally manipulated Amanda with both friendly inducements and distressing threats. On several occasions, Mr. Coban made good on these threats.”
Devlin laid out a series of aggravating factors in the case, including the abuse’s contribution to Amanda’s suicide, her young age, the sophistication and premeditation of Coban’s sexual blackmail scheme and how widely he distributed pornographic images and video of the teen.
The sentence must send a message to other would-be online predators, Devlin said while keeping children safe from Coban — who she said is not currently capable of rehabilitation and has shown no signs of remorse.
Quoting extensively from the viral YouTube video that made Amanda’s case famous, along with victim impact statements made by her father Norm, mother Carol and brother Cristopher, Devlin noted the devastating ripple effects of the crimes.
Coban “enjoyed his victims’ escalating distress,” Devlin said, describing conduct that was “relentless, enduring, and purposely destructive.”
“She could not escape the images or videos. It was a ‘never-ending story,”’ Devlin said, referring to Amanda’s own description from her YouTube video.
Prosecutors had sought a 12-year prison term, arguing Coban remained “unrepentant” and a high risk to children.
The 44-year-old’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued his crimes were worth a six-year sentence, which should be further reduced to two years to take into account the 11 years he’s already serving overseas.
Friday’s sentence is to be served at the conclusion of Coban’s Dutch sentence, which is up in August 2024. It remains unclear how the Dutch system will interpret his Canadian sentence when he is returned to the Netherlands.
'Justice for Amanda'
Outside the courthouse, holding a photo of her daughter, Carol Todd hailed the stiff sentence.
“That was amazing. That was amazing because it was justice for Amanda and justice for all,” she said.
“This will make a difference in the world for the kids, and I have to hope Amanda is watching from somewhere to see what her voice did for everyone.”
Todd says she’s anxiously watching to see how the Dutch criminal justice system will convert his sentence, which exceeds the maximum sentence in that country.
“Will they accept that? I don’t know. Will they go less? They might. Could he walk out? I sure hope not, because there had been talk about a conversion so low that he would be free,” she said.
Carol also called for police to take online harassment more seriously, and said the federal government needs to review and consider expanding legislation against cyberbullying passed nearly a decade ago.
Amanda’s father Norm Todd, said he was pleased with how much weight the judge had given the family’s victim impact statements.
“I was really excited. I was hoping and praying we got a high sentence, and we did — but our expectations were lower. Everybody pulled together and we got through to the judge. We set a really high precedent, which is really nice, I am really happy about that,” he said.
“I just miss her, and I hope she sees we got her some justice.”
A 12-member jury found Coban guilty of criminal harassment, extortion, child luring, and possession and distribution of child pornography in August.
During the nearly two-month trial, the court heard that Coban used nearly two dozen online accounts on four platforms to mount what prosecutors called a “persistent campaign of sextortion” against Todd when she was age 12 to age 15.
He obtained a topless video clip of the girl, then used it as leverage to try to force her to perform webcam sex “shows.” When she resisted, he followed through on his threats to send the material to her family, friends and school community three times, the court heard.
Coban sent nearly 700 messages, some from accounts meant to befriend and gain information on the teen or to trick her into further exposing herself, while others were threatening and abusive, promising to “f— up” her life and pursue her as she changed schools amid real-world bullying, the court heard.
The sentencing hearing began this week, almost exactly 10 years after Todd took her own life in 2012.
Just weeks before her death, she created a YouTube video where she silently held up cue cards documenting the torment she suffered and its effect on her life. The video went viral and became a symbol in the fight against online harassment.
Coban was arrested at a bungalow in the Netherlands in January 2014, where police seized a variety of computer equipment including hard drives with Todd’s name and fragments of chat logs with her.
He was convicted by a Dutch court in 2017 of dozens of similar offences involving other victims, and sentenced to a nearly 11-year prison term, with credit for time served.
In 2020, he was extradited to Canada to face trial in the Todd case.