A St. John’s teacher accused of having sex with one of her underage students now awaits a verdict after a brief trial.
Crown prosecutor Jacqueline MacMillan called only three witnesses to testify against Krysta Grimes, a 34-year-old substitute teacher.
One of those, a complainant who was under 18 at the time of the alleged sexual encounter, said he added Grimes as a contact on messaging app Snapchat in 2018. He testified last week that the two chatted for several weeks before planning to meet in his car for sex.
He alleges the two met in a private location outside St. John’s at some point in the spring of 2018, had intercourse, and continued chatting over text and Snapchat until the school board received a letter in December complaining of rumours she had slept with students.
Grimes was investigated and arrested in August 2019, charged with one count of sexual exploitation for allegedly having sexual contact with a minor while in a position of trust or authority.
In her closing submissions, MacMillan argued that although the complainant couldn’t recall the exact date of their encounter, he remained consistent about roughly when it occurred.
She also argued he initially denied the encounter to avoid getting himself into trouble and to protect Grimes.
“She asked him if he had her back, which he took to mean she was asking him to deny everything,” MacMillan said.
“His evidence is that that placed a weight on his shoulders, which was only relieved when he told the truth a few weeks later: that he was a victim of a sexual offence.”
MacMillian also argued the complainant had plucked up the courage to testify in court and didn’t embellish his evidence, stressing that any inconsistencies were insignificant and could be chalked up to his age at the time of the alleged encounter.
Police bungled probe: defence
Grimes’s lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, declined to call any witnesses Monday, arguing the body of evidence gathered by police fell “drastically” short of what would be required to convict her client.
“This case is about the absence of evidence more than anything else,” she said, suggesting the lead Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer on the investigation failed to speak to key witnesses, relied on widespread rumours and was prone to confirmation bias.
“There is no credible evidence that this offence took place,” she said.
“We have the word of a person who contradicted himself at every turn, and … a shoddy investigation that allowed him to do it.”
Sullivan pointed out that police didn’t request cell tower locations for either the complainant’s or Grimes’s cellphone, and that the Crown couldn’t provide the content of any text or Snapchat messages that may have been sent between the two.
She then attacked inconsistencies in the complainant’s testimony, arguing that he changed his story when presented with conflicting evidence.
“The ease with which he pivots is the concern here,” she said. “These are examples of a person who plays loosely with the truth and then tries to manipulate the original answer.”
Sullivan then suggested the complainant was dedicated to propping up a lie he’d told to his friends to gain social currency.
“When you set out to tell your friends that you slept with the teacher, that’s quite an accomplishment. But there’d be nothing worse than being known as the guy who lied about that,” she said.
“This is not a case of where there’s smoke there’s fire. There’s nothing but smoke.”
Justice Vikas Khaladkar will hand down a verdict on Feb. 10. If convicted, Grimes faces a minimum of one year in prison.