The messages started rolling in at 4 a.m. Thursday: Carol, wake up. Carol, court is starting, wake up. It’s happening.
In a Winnipeg hotel room, Carol Todd rubbed drowsy eyes, turned on her phone and began scrolling through the tweets from friends and reporters inside the Dutch courtroom where Aydin Coban, the Dutchman charged with targeting online nearly three dozen girls and five adult gay men around the world, was about to hear his fate.
Her heart sinking, Todd saw that the 38-year-old had been acquitted in four of the five cases involving the adult men.
“Then I saw what the judges were saying about the young victims, then it was ‘guilty,’ and the judges recommended the full sentence,” Todd said. “So it was good. It was a relief.”
Coban received the maximum sentence — nearly 11 years — for cyberbullying. Posing as a girl or boy, Coban persuaded victims to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam and then posted the images or blackmailed victims to then send more material.
Todd’s daughter, Amanda Todd, was not among the cases being examined in the Netherlands.
Amanda was 15 years old when she was cyberbullied into sharing personal photos with a stranger online. Her subsequent YouTube video, in which she detailed the abuse and its devastating effects, has been a catalyst for raising awareness of the danger of online predators.
Amanda took her own life not long after posting the video.
Todd isn’t sure why Amanda’s case wasn’t part of the Dutch court proceedings but is trying to draw something good from the distinction.
“The positive out of this is that in his next trial, if he’s found guilty and sentenced, he gets more years tacked on but if Amanda’s case was included with the others ones, he still gets 10 years and eight months,” she told The Tri-City News.
The Netherlands’ Supreme Court will decide on April 4 whether Coban will be extradited to Canada to face charges laid in 2014 in Amanda’s case. Even if extradition is approved, Todd said, there could be delays depending on whether Coban appeals this week’s conviction.
In the meantime, she’s glad for the families that heard the news they were hoping for on Thursday.
“I’m so happy for the families and the victims out there that had to go through this trauma,” Todd said. “But I’m also happy this will be… precedent-setting in the world of perpetrators being convicted.”
And while she hopes Coban's conviction and sentence send a message to other online predators — that they can, indeed, be caught, tried and convicted — what Todd also wants to see is more conversations about online behaviour, whether it’s at the kitchen table, in the classroom or elsewhere.
“We have to teach kids online to report something they’re uncomfortable about. We have to teach them about the behaviours they might come across that are not appropriate. And we have to talk about it in detail, and not be afraid to talk about it.”