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Kentville court hears closing arguments in tennis instructor's luring trial


Aaron Byron Cumberland, 28, formerly of Kentville, is charged with internet luring, invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to the same complainant, a boy under the age of 16. - File
Aaron Byron Cumberland, 28, formerly of Kentville, is charged with internet luring, invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to the same complainant, a boy under the age of 16. - File

Lawyers in the trial of a former tennis instructor charged with internet luring of a former student made their final submissions to the jury on Monday.

Aaron Byron Cumberland, 28, is also charged with invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to a person under the age of 16.

He was charged in November 2017 after the boy's parents found sexually explicit material and messages coming to the teen over Facebook Messenger, which they were able to monitor on their own devices. They took over the message exchange, pretending to be their son, and made video recordings of the messages because they were disappearing on the screen shortly after they were read.  

Defence lawyer Jonathan Cuming told the eight-man, five-woman jury in Kentville Supreme Court that the RCMP technical crime unit wrote six reports aimed at trying to verify that Cumberland was the person sending the messages, looking at electronic devices including the teen's iPod and laptop, and Cumberland's phone and laptop. 

But, he said, the parent's tablet on which they were viewing the messages and the phone with which they were making the video recordings were not examined by the technical crime unit.

He said it was inconceivable why the the parents' devices didn't have the same level of scrutiny, and called it a “significant oversight.”

He suggested the RCMP developed “tunnel vision” in their investigation, and failed to investigate the possibility that the messages could have been sent by a third party using Cumberland's Facebook account. 

He said the examination of Cumberland's phone found only trace evidence of incoming messages in its secure messages folder.

“The forensic evidence just doesn't match the Crown's theory,” Cuming said,

He also said that the only times Cumberland received secret messages on his device was on Nov. 5 and 15, and he was in Sackville, N.B., both times. The second time involved messages from an undercover RCMP officer.

He suggested to the jury that the messages were sent from Cumberland's phone by someone else.

Crown attorney Sylvia Domaradzki told jurors, though, that a defense witness who placed Cumberland in Sackville also testified that he saw no one else use Cumberland's phone except the accused. 

She also said that comments in the disappearing messages about a resume being prepared for the teen – a former student of Cumberland – were consistent with earlier messages that didn't disappear, and with comments Cumberland made when he ran into the boy and his father at a hockey game several days before the messages were sent.

She also pointed to comments posted on social media by Cumberland and messages to a friend after an arrest warrant was issued for him but before he turned himself in, in which he made comments such as “this is the end for me,” and “'I'm going to jail.” He also said “I'm sorry” and “I've needed help my whole life.”

The jurors will receive their instructions from Justice John Keith on Tuesday morning. One of them will also be removed from the panel, as only 12 are required for deliberations but 13 were chosen in case something unforeseen happened during the trial.

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