POLITICS

2 girls plead guilty in Ottawa teen prostitution case; 3rd to continue trial

09/26/2013 03:49 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST
OTTAWA - Two of three teenaged Ottawa girls accused of befriending other teens through Facebook and other social media before forcing them to work as "escorts" have pleaded guilty in a surprise about-face at trial.

Court was told Thursday that the two girls had reached a resolution with Crown prosecutors.

Justice Diane Lahaie has ordered a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric review of a 16-year-old girl who pleaded guilty to six charges, including human trafficking, making and distributing child pornography and exploitation.

She is to be sentenced on Dec. 20.

A 17-year-old girl facing the fewest charges in the case pleaded guilty to exploitation, assault, uttering threats and breaching the conditions of her bail.

The third accused, a 16-year-old girl facing the most charges in the case and often referred to as the ringleader, did not change her plea.

Her trial will continue in October.

All three girls, whose identities are protected under a publication ban, had pleaded not guilty in April to a raft of charges that took the court clerk more than 20 minutes to read into the public record.

Some of the alleged victims, ranging in age from 13 to 17, were forced to have sex with "clients" of the accused, beaten, confined and robbed, Crown prosecutor Julien Lalonde told court on the opening day of the trial.

Several of the victims also had their clothes ripped off and were photographed in the nude, prosecutors alleged.

"They were told they would be working as escorts," Lalonde said in his opening remarks.

In one case, a 13-year-old victim was assaulted after her mother dropped her off for what she thought was a sleepover with a friend, said prosecutors.

Court was told the victim's mother immediately called 911 the following morning when her daughter came home and collapsed in tears.

Ever since they first surfaced last year, the stunning allegations have served as a stark reminder to parents to be mindful about the people their teenaged children might be in contact with on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

In one case, a man in his 30s allegedly paid $60 for oral sex with a 16-year-old. In another, court heard how a prospective client declined to have sex with one of the teens after the victim made it clear she was with him against her will.

The girls were arrested in June 2012 in the Ottawa area.

(CFRA, 1310News, The Canadian Press)