NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A British Columbia judge who imposed an unprecedented 13-year sentence on an “internet sextortionist” says he has no insight into his crimes against a vulnerable child whose life he set out to destroy.
Justice Martha Devlin said Todd courageously shared her anguish for the world to see when she posted a video saying she suffered from anxiety and depression because of a man she came to call her stalker.
“I have heard her voice,” Devlin said in delivering the sentence Friday in B.C. Supreme Court. “I have considered Amanda’s words as expressed through her video and through messages she sent when she was alive.”
Todd took her own life at her home in Port Coquitlam in October 2012, a few weeks after posting the video in which she used flash cards to communicate her distress.
Devlin said the unrelenting actions of Aydin Coban contributed to the suicide.
The Dutch national, now 44, knew Todd was 12 when he began his harassment campaign against her after messaging her in November 2009 when he saw her dancing in a video, Devlin said.
The video is not considered pornographic, but Coban sent it to people Todd knew and then demanded intimate photos and webcam shows that kept her frightened, the judge said.
“The serious impact of the offences on Amanda was obvious to Mr. Coban and would have been obvious to anyone at the time. Ruining Amanda’s life was Mr. Coban’s expressly stated goal. Sadly, one that he achieved.”
Devlin said she was moved by the heartbreaking victim impact statements Todd’s parents read in court this week about their despair and that they, along with Todd’s brother, were secondary victims in Coban’s calculated extortion scheme.
“Although I know that no sentence imposed by this court will ever come close to erasing the pain they feel, and the pain Amanda felt as a result of these offences, I have considered their victim impact statements in assessing the appropriate sentences imposed for Mr. Coban.”
Coban was found guilty by a jury in August of multiple offences including extortion, possession and distribution of child pornography, harassment and child luring.
The sentence is longer than the 12 years suggested by the Crown, but Devlin said Coban’s conduct and the pleasure he took in Todd’s escalating distress called for “sharp rebuke.”
Coban’s defence lawyers had asked for a two-year sentence.
The highest prison term in Canada so far for similar offences has been about eight years.
The court heard Coban used 22 aliases to gain Todd’s trust and lure her by pretending to be a teenager and to extort and demand pornographic content.
“I’m not an amateur,” he said in one of over 700 messages he sent to her.
In another, Coban said he would play her video online non-stop for a week if she did not meet his demands.
“Soon, I will start sending videos again to other school buddies. Or you can make me stop by listening.”
Devlin said Coban instilled fear in Todd even as she often refused to comply but that he made good on his threats by sending intimate images of Todd to a wide group of people, including her parents, students and school administrators.
“She could not escape the images or videos. It was a ‘never-ending story,’” Devlin said, quoting from Todd’s own description of her ordeal in the video she posted in 2012.
Coban’s aggressive campaign had him using sophisticated technology, including private networks, anti-forensic software to leave no evidence and software to disguise his voice, she said.
“Mr. Coban deliberately took advantage of a young girl and set in motion a meticulously detailed, multipronged plan involving an arsenal of fake social media platforms.He went to significant lengths to obtain information about Amanda and her family members, teachers and peers so he could maximize the number of people to whom he could distribute the images and videos.”
Coban, who was extradited to Canada to face trial, is already serving an 11-year sentence handed down in the Netherlands for similar crimes involving 33 youths.
Devlin said the 13-year term will be served after Coban’s Dutch sentence ends in August 2024.
Carol Todd said outside court that she felt “breathless” when she heard her daughter’s tormentor had been given a 13-year sentence and turned to her son, Christopher Todd, for assurance.
“This will make a difference in the world,” she said of other cases involving predators extorting children. “I have hope that Amanda’s watching from somewhere to see what her voice did for everyone.”
Norm Todd said his daughter’s case should raise awareness for younger kids to stay off the internet, where they could easily become targets and that police have learned more about how foreign predators ensure children online.
“I think this woke up the world to that, that this is something that needs to be recognized and dealt with,” he said.
The BC Prosecution Service issued a statement after the sentencing saying that under the terms of Coban’s surrender, he will be returned to the Netherlands to serve out his current sentence.
The court heard he must be returned within 45 days, and he will also serve his Canadian sentence in the Netherlands.
Coban has refused rehabilitation and there’s a likelihood he will reoffend because there’s nothing to indicate he has any awareness into his behaviour, Devlin said.