Calgary woman found not guilty of human trafficking in sex slave case

CALGARY — A Calgary woman who was accused of holding a sex slave hostage in her downtown apartment for five days has been found not guilty of human trafficking and forcible confinement.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Scott Brooker did convict Jessica Vinje of assault.

The accused testified during her trial in July that she met the complainant, identified only as KM, in December 2017 through a mutual friend.

Vinje told court that KM asked that same day whether she could use Vinje’s apartment to meet potential escort clients because she needed to make money.

Vinje admitted that her apartment was often used as a flop house and that she punched KM on one occasion, when a teen at the apartment said KM had offered to exchange a sexual favour for drugs.

KM testified she endured days of torture, was repeatedly assaulted and forced to have sex with strangers.

She said some of the men answered online ads but she never saw any of the money and wasn’t aware how much cash Vinje took from them.

On one occasion, KM testified, a mask was put over her head and she was driven to an unknown location, where she overhead a conversation about selling her for $500, but that never went through. She said she even heard those who captured her discuss shooting her.

She said she escaped five days later when she noticed the apartment was unusually quiet. Court was shown security video from a liquor store on December 13, 2017, in which KM, barefoot and in a tank top, is seen running across the street and hiding behind the counter until police arrive. She said she was three months pregnant at the time.

Brooker noted that he had difficulty with the opposing accounts of what happened and noted that the accused and the complainant were both admitted drug users.

The judge said KM’s testimony raised serious concerns about her reliability and credibility, while Vinje admitted in court that her memory of events at the time was foggy because she was always high on heroin.

Vinje was living in a subsidized apartment and said she committed credit card fraud daily to pay for food and taxis.

Court heard she has 64 convictions on her criminal record dating back to 2006.

A sentencing hearing on the assault conviction is to be held next week.

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