The trial of a New Zealand-based social media influencer accused of raping two teens while unconscious and repeatedly blackmailing one of them for sexual acts has been aborted as a result of the nation's Covid-19 lockdown.
The defendant, who has name suppression, had been on trial for over a week at the High Court at Auckland before the August 18 lockdown put all jury trials on pause.
Justice Christine Gordon, who oversaw the trial, gave the order to abort it.
It could be heard at a later date but would have to start over again, and the defendant's two accusers would be called to testify for a second time before a new jury.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The influencer is charged with six counts of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, three counts of blackmail and two counts of aggravated wounding by stupefaction.
He began his trial by pleading guilty to two other charges: possession of illegal drug MDMA and common assault, having punched the first of the two accusers in the head at a party in 2019, before the allegations surfaced.
During three days of testimony, the man's first accuser, known in court documents as Mr A, said he was a teenager trying to increase his own profile when he became friends with the defendant. He acknowledged under lengthy cross-examination that the two were flirtatious at times, but he said he was brainwashed and manipulated by a powerful adult more than 10 years his senior.
The young man said his drink on one occasion was spiked at a party and he woke up at the defendant's house, where he was being abused without his consent. A similar incident happened the next year, the teen alleged. On multiple occasions, he said, the defendant threatened to leak naked photos of him and to "destroy" him if he didn't agree to a sexual act.
The defendant's lawyers, however, suggested to jurors that the two were in a consensual relationship that the accuser denied because of his conservative family background.
The second accuser, known as Mr B, also said he woke up one night to the defendant abusing him. The defence, however, suggested his memory was faulty because of the effects of drugs and alcohol that night.
A new trial date has not yet been set.