OTTAWA — The sexual-assault trial of former Afghanistan hostage Joshua Boyle took another unexpected twist Wednesday that left the Crown’s star witness looking for a new lawyer and the possibility of a contempt charge against her hanging in the air.
Caitlan Coleman, Boyle’s now-estranged wife, was once more being cross-examined by defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon.
The couple spent five years as hostages of Taliban-linked extremists in Afghanistan between October 2012 and October 2017, when they were freed by Pakistani forces. The couple had three children while in captivity.
After being rescued they moved to Ottawa, where Boyle was arrested on Dec. 31, 2017, after Coleman fled their apartment. He faces 19 charges, including sexual assault, assault, and unlawful confinement.
She alleges he repeatedly hit her, spanked her, choked her and bit her both in captivity and after moving to Ottawa. Among the allegations is that Boyle gave her a list of rules to follow and if she didn’t follow them she was to be chastised.
Coleman began testifying in March and early April but the trial was suspended for several weeks while courts sorted out what questions Greenspon could ask her about her sexual history with Boyle.
On April 3, Judge Peter Doody ordered Coleman not to have any discussions about the evidence she gave, or will give, at trial with any witness or potential witness.
However Greenspon pointed out during the cross-examination that Coleman gave at least three interviews with media outlets in April and May, including an interview with the CBC that aired May 28, and ABC News that aired May 29. She also spoke with the Washington Post but that interview has not yet been published, Greenspon said.
Coleman, who was testifying on a video link from an undisclosed location in the United States, said she gave “a very limited interview” to ABC News “that did not include discussion of what happened in Ottawa.”
She agreed with Greenspon that she remembered the order given by Doody.
“That is why I was very limited in what I would discuss in interviews,” she said.
Greenspon said she discussed a number of things in those interviews that were part of the evidence she’d already given, including how she and Boyle met, how the couple came to be in Afghanistan before they were taken hostage, some of the things that happened while they were in captivity, and some of the controls Boyle placed on her after they returned to Ottawa following their release.
That’s when Coleman said “my understanding from my lawyers was these were acceptable things to discuss.”
Greenspon told the court he had never expected Coleman to say she had given the interviews after receiving approval from her lawyers, and the answer stopped the trial in its tracks.
There are now questions to be worked out about whether Coleman waived solicitor-client privilege when she volunteered that she sought advice from her lawyers before giving the interviews, as well as the issue of whether or not she violated the judge’s order.
“She completely disregarded that instruction,” said Greenspon in the courtroom. “She demonstrated that, she, in my submission, has no respect for the spirit if not the letter of Your Honour’s order.”