The sexual assault trial of Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard is getting underway after multiple delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hoggard, dressed in a dark suit, was in a downtown Toronto courtroom on Monday as a judge heard a few procedural matters in the case. While jury selection was originally expected to take place today, it is now likely to begin Wednesday.
One person who observed Monday’s proceedings later held up a sign outside the courtroom expressing support for Hoggard and Hedley, the band he fronted. Some fans had previously attended hearings early in the case in 2018, even when Hoggard himself was not present.
Hoggard pleaded not guilty to sexual assault causing bodily harm and sexual interference during a two-day preliminary hearing in the summer of 2019.
He chose to be tried by a jury rather than a judge alone, and was initially scheduled to stand trial in January 2021.
But public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 prompted the courts to put new jury trials on hold for months at a time during the pandemic, and the trial was pushed back on several occasions.
It is now scheduled to run until early June.
Alleged incidents took place in 2016
Hoggard was arrested and charged in 2018 for alleged incidents involving a woman and a teenager that police have said took place in the Toronto area in 2016. The complainants cannot be identified due to a publication ban.
Police began investigating the case after allegations surfaced suggesting Hoggard had inappropriate encounters with young fans.
The singer put out a statement long before his arrest in which he denied any non-consensual sexual conduct. But he acknowledged having behaved in a way that “objectified women” and was “reckless and dismissive of their feelings.”
Hedley was dropped by its management team and by several radio stations after the allegations emerged, and the band has been on indefinite hiatus since 2018.