Jury says guilty of blackmail

Two people have been found guilty by a jury of blackmailing a woman by threatening to disseminate compromising imagery of her.

William Charlie Waihi aka William Donald Whittington, 36, and a woman, whose details are currently suppressed, went on trial in Gisborne District Court on Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty to an allegation that between January 6 and 7 this year, they tried to extort $3000 or $2000 and a Subaru vehicle, from complainant Kataraina Kohere aka Gordon.

The jury took about half an hour to reach its verdict yesterday. Judge Warren Cathcart remanded Waihi and the female co-offender on bail for sentence and a review of the woman’s suppression status on December 4.

The pair, former friends of Ms Kohere, had threatened to send a lewd photograph of her and a video of her smoking methamphetamine while pregnant, to her family, friends, the Gisborne Herald and Oranga Tamariki.

Ms Kohere supplied the photo to Waihi in early 2017 in relation to a drugs matter.

She stopped associating with the pair about mid-2017, when she found out she was pregnant and began trying to rid herself of her drug addiction.

She told the court she was surprised when the pair suddenly contacted her in January with a barrage of self-deleting Facebook messages and phone calls. She could tell it was them from their profile pictures, voices, and the way they talked. Messages from Waihi called her by nicknames only he used. He was the only person to whom she had ever sent the photo.

Closing the Crown case yesterday, prosecutor Megan Mitchell told jurors to put aside any prejudice they might feel for drug users, who were also entitled to the protection of the law. Neither should jurors judge Ms Kohere for having issued such a photo – drug users often did desperate things.

Ms Mitchell said the jury’s task was simple. It was clear that threats were made, with money the motivation. All jurors had left to decide was whether these defendants had been rightly identified as the culprits.

The pair’s claims they were not Facebook users was obviously untrue. Each appeared to have profile pages and the two women first met through Facebook. The trio previously routinely communicated that way.

There was no evidence to support defence suggestions of Facebook pages possibly being fabricated or profiles being hacked.

Both defendants were culpable, Ms Mitchell said. The female accused seemed to be trying to play the role of “good cop” telling Ms Kohere she was “trying to help her out” and “buying her time”. But it was Waihi the woman was helping, Ms Mitchell said.

The photo was found on a phone attributed to the woman, and there was evidence to suggest she also emailed it to herself — despite her assurances to Ms Kohere there was only one copy (the one Waihi had).

Counsel for the accused said the case wasn’t as simple as the Crown urged.

In her closing address for the female accused, counsel Nicola Wright said police relied too heavily on Ms Kohere’s claims and evidence she gathered, which was selective and unreliable.

Police failed to carry out other investigative work that could have assisted the case, especially in relation to the phone attributed to her client.

For Waihi, counsel Amanda Courtney said jurors should base their decision on the facts before them. The complainant’s evidence was concerning because it was based on assumptions about who these blackmailers might be.

Jurors should be cautious about adopting her assumptions.

Even confident, seemingly credible, witnesses could get it wrong. Ms Kohere was heavily involved in the drug world. Many people could potentially have been the offenders.

Waihi had been in possession of the photo of Ms Kohere for some time and there was never any earlier suggestion of him trying to blackmail her. He showed it several months earlier to Ms Kohere’s husband but only to alert him to her antics at that time.

The evidence did not categorically support any involvement by Waihi. There was only one phone in evidence in this case. It had the photo on it, and it was not attributed to Waihi, Ms Courtney said.

Two people have been found guilty by a jury of blackmailing a woman by threatening to disseminate compromising imagery of her.

William Charlie Waihi aka William Donald Whittington, 36, and a woman, whose details are currently suppressed, went on trial in Gisborne District Court on Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty to an allegation that between January 6 and 7 this year, they tried to extort $3000 or $2000 and a Subaru vehicle, from complainant Kataraina Kohere aka Gordon.

The jury took about half an hour to reach its verdict yesterday. Judge Warren Cathcart remanded Waihi and the female co-offender on bail for sentence and a review of the woman’s suppression status on December 4.

The pair, former friends of Ms Kohere, had threatened to send a lewd photograph of her and a video of her smoking methamphetamine while pregnant, to her family, friends, the Gisborne Herald and Oranga Tamariki.

Ms Kohere supplied the photo to Waihi in early 2017 in relation to a drugs matter.

She stopped associating with the pair about mid-2017, when she found out she was pregnant and began trying to rid herself of her drug addiction.

She told the court she was surprised when the pair suddenly contacted her in January with a barrage of self-deleting Facebook messages and phone calls. She could tell it was them from their profile pictures, voices, and the way they talked. Messages from Waihi called her by nicknames only he used. He was the only person to whom she had ever sent the photo.

Closing the Crown case yesterday, prosecutor Megan Mitchell told jurors to put aside any prejudice they might feel for drug users, who were also entitled to the protection of the law. Neither should jurors judge Ms Kohere for having issued such a photo – drug users often did desperate things.

Ms Mitchell said the jury’s task was simple. It was clear that threats were made, with money the motivation. All jurors had left to decide was whether these defendants had been rightly identified as the culprits.

The pair’s claims they were not Facebook users was obviously untrue. Each appeared to have profile pages and the two women first met through Facebook. The trio previously routinely communicated that way.

There was no evidence to support defence suggestions of Facebook pages possibly being fabricated or profiles being hacked.

Both defendants were culpable, Ms Mitchell said. The female accused seemed to be trying to play the role of “good cop” telling Ms Kohere she was “trying to help her out” and “buying her time”. But it was Waihi the woman was helping, Ms Mitchell said.

The photo was found on a phone attributed to the woman, and there was evidence to suggest she also emailed it to herself — despite her assurances to Ms Kohere there was only one copy (the one Waihi had).

Counsel for the accused said the case wasn’t as simple as the Crown urged.

In her closing address for the female accused, counsel Nicola Wright said police relied too heavily on Ms Kohere’s claims and evidence she gathered, which was selective and unreliable.

Police failed to carry out other investigative work that could have assisted the case, especially in relation to the phone attributed to her client.

For Waihi, counsel Amanda Courtney said jurors should base their decision on the facts before them. The complainant’s evidence was concerning because it was based on assumptions about who these blackmailers might be.

Jurors should be cautious about adopting her assumptions.

Even confident, seemingly credible, witnesses could get it wrong. Ms Kohere was heavily involved in the drug world. Many people could potentially have been the offenders.

Waihi had been in possession of the photo of Ms Kohere for some time and there was never any earlier suggestion of him trying to blackmail her. He showed it several months earlier to Ms Kohere’s husband but only to alert him to her antics at that time.

The evidence did not categorically support any involvement by Waihi. There was only one phone in evidence in this case. It had the photo on it, and it was not attributed to Waihi, Ms Courtney said.

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