Trial ends for former Coquitlam substitute teacher

The prosecution has closed its case against former substitute teacher Aleksandr Plehanov. - FILE PHOTO
The prosecution has closed its case against former substitute teacher Aleksandr Plehanov.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO

The trial of Aleksandr Plehanov, a former substitute teacher accused of sexually assaulting several elementary school students, wrapped up Thursday morning at the end of the prosecution's case.

Defence lawyer Lisa Jean Helps announced she would not be calling any witnesses in the trial, including her own client.

The trial ended with Helps' brief cross-examination of Coquitlam RCMP Const. Shelby Murphy regarding Plehanov's possible alibi for the afternoon of June 3, 2010. That's the day Plehanov is alleged to have been seen outside the home of one of the girls he is accused of assaulting.

In the course of Murphy's testimony, Judge David St. Pierre heard that a man signed in under the name Aleksandr Plehanov at the Burnaby food bank at 4550 Kitchener St. some time between noon and 1 p.m. on June 3, 2010, and that the food bank regularly allows people to line up at about 11 or 11:30 a.m.

Murphy also testified she had driven two separate routes from the food bank to the location where Plehanov was allegedly seen outside the girl's home, noting one route took 37 minutes due to construction, while another took 26 minutes.

Earlier in the trial, a neighbour of one of the alleged victims testified she had seen a man, whom she believed to be Plehanov, outside the girl's home just before 11 a.m. on June 3, 2010.

The neighbour called police and officers arrived at about 11:30 a.m. They patrolled the area for about an hour but did not locate Plehanov.

On June 8, Plehanov was allegedly spotted in his vehicle in the same area, this time by the distraught mother of an alleged victim. Police arrived about an hour later but didn't find the suspect, and Burnaby RCMP arrested him later that night at his home.

Following Helps' decision to not call any evidence, Crown prosecutor Wendy Van Tongeren Harvey gave a brief outline of the submissions she would be making on July 3, including some regarding legal issues around the reliability of evidence given by children. Those submissions will be followed by closing arguments.

Outside the court, the father of one girls expressed his relief that the trial was over, adding he wasn't disappointed Plehanov didn't testify.

"I didn't expect he'd testify," the man said. "There'd be too much risk."

The father, who can't be named to protect the identity of his daughter, said she's doing "all right" but he's worried about the "other families who didn't come forward," with their allegations regarding Plehanov.

He also praised Crown counsel and Coquitlam RCMP Victim Services for their support over the last two years.

"I hope he's found guilty," the father said of the man who allegedly assaulted his daughter. "And I certainly hope he isn't able to teach anymore and he isn't able to be with kids in any capacity."

He wants to see the school board implement new policies to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Plehanov is facing five charges of sexual interference and five charges of sexual assault involving girls who were aged seven and eight at the time of the alleged incidents, which date back to January 2008. He is also facing a charge of criminal harassment in relation to a June 2010 incident.

Plehanov is alleged to have touched students inappropriately soon after he started teaching in School District 43 in 2007 and, although he was cautioned by fellow teachers and principals, and reported to the BC College of Teachers in 2009, nobody called police.

The touching reportedly included girls sitting on Plehanov's lap and him touching their shoulders, bottoms, stomachs and lower pelvic area, and is alleged to have continued until the parents of one girl reported the incident to police in March 2010. Plehanov was arrested about a week later.

The defence has argued Plehanov was an ineffectual teacher who misunderstood the boundaries between teachers and students. Helps also argued much of the girls' allegations were clouded by conversations with their friends and parents.



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