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Girlfriend of accused removed from courtroom after complainant says there were threats and hand signals

Tracey Dodds is accused of forcing a woman to perform sexual acts for methadone after he acted as surety to get her released from custody. His girlfriend had convinced him to post bail after she herself was jailed for stabbing him.
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Dodds
Tracey Dodds is handcuffed before being led from Kentville provincial court Thursday. He is charged with extorting sexual favours from a woman in exchange for methadone and Dilaudid after posting bail for the woman. (IAN FAIRCLOUGH / Local Xpress)

The trial of a Wolfville man accused of extorting a woman for sex by withholding her methadone was interrupted briefly Thursday as the complainant asked that the man's girlfriend be told to leave the courtroom.

"Your honour, may I ask that she be removed?" the complainant asked Judge Ronda van der Hoek.

The complainant said through the Crown that Mary Keeping, Tracey Donald Dodds' girlfriend, had been in contact with her at some point prior to Thursday, with the communications being “of a threatening nature.”

Dodds is being tried on charges of sexual assault, assault, uttering threats, unlawful confinement, extortion to obtain sexual acts, intimidation to commit sexual acts and drug trafficking.

After reviewing the section of the Criminal Code that allows a judge to have someone removed from the courtroom, the judge asked the woman if she was saying that she felt her testimony may be somehow impacted or interrupted if Keeping remained in the courtroom.

“I'm sitting here, and as I'm looking at her, every little thing that I have said, she has done hand signals, and I don't want to feel threatened in any way,” the complainant replied.

She said there had been threats and that Keeping had called her.

The judge said was satisfied that Keeping should be excluded from the court while the woman testified.

Earlier in the trial, the complainant testified that when she was in prison in February and unable to find anyone to be her surety for bail, Keeping befriended her and said Dodds would provide bail for her. Keeping was in jail at the same time as the complainant after being arrested and charged with stabbing Dodds on Dec. 31. She pleaded guilty Feb.13 to aggravated assault and was sentenced to six month in jail.

The complainant said jail scared her so much she accepted the arrangement and was released on Feb.13. But after getting to Dodds' house in Wolfville, he withheld Dilaudid pills and methadone, which she needed to fend off her pill sickness, unless she provided sexual favours. She said he also threatened to withdraw as her surety and have her sent back to jail if she didn't agree.

The complainant, who is 28, testified Thursday that she never agreed to sexual contact with Dodds, who is 61, except for the sole purpose of getting her pills.

The woman admitted she is opiate-dependent.

It was the second day of testimony for the woman, who testified she finally called the RCMP on March 7, but only to ask if she could leave Dodds' home unescorted to get her methadone. A condition of her bail required her to be in Dodds' presence if she left the home.

It wasn't until later, after she told police that she was concerned for her well-being because of mould in the home, no heat and Dodds' presence, that police came to get her. Officers also received a call from a family member of the woman who asked that a well-being check be made on the woman.

Police showed up at Dodds' house and pretended to arrest her for a breach of probation. They later conferred with a Crown attorney and got the OK to release the woman on an undertaking to go to friend's home on essentially the same conditions she had been on, until she could appear in court the next day to ask that her bail be changed.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Brian Vardigans, the complainant said she tried as many people as she could to be her surety, but no one could because they had criminal records or were financially unable.

She said she was desperate to get out of jail, so when he touched her sexually and she said no on the first night of her release, she thought that was the end of the issue.

But it was the next day that the extortion started, she said.

“I didn't know what kind of living situation I was getting myself into,” she said.

Vardigans suggested the complainant thought Dodds was “an easy mark ... and that he was going to be easy to control by you.”

The woman denied that.

“You didn't think you could control a 61-year-old man?” Vardiagans asked.

“No, not by any means,” she replied. “He's also 365 pounds and six-foot-seven. He reminded me daily that he was the person that put me in the house, and it was by his rules and his rules only.”

Vardigans asked why the woman didn't try to get out of the situation earlier.

“I knew what the consequences were, because Mr. Dodds had told me daily,” she said.

Besides the fear of going back to jail, she said Dodds told her that he he knew people connected to bikers and “I would go missing.”

She told Vardigans that when police called her for the well-being check she lied about being OK because Dodds was standing over her.

The defence lawyer also asked her if Dodds had erections during some of the sexual acts. She said he did on many occasions.

Dodds had protested to the judge after being denied bail in March that the charges were unfounded because “I can't perform.”

The RCMP officer who took the call from the woman on the day police took her from Dodds' home testified Thursday the complainant told her that she felt unwell, possibly from the mould, and that she didn't feel physically safe because of Dodd's sexual assaults.

“She made comment that she would feel safer back in jail,” Const. Debra Nichol said.

The constable said under cross-examination that she didn't recall saying anything about Dodd's character to the woman before taking her statement, and said that a complaint Dodds filed against her after he was arrested for suspicion of possession of stolen cellphone had no bearing on the way she dealt with the case.

Dodds had been trying to activate a cellphone that a cellular provider said had been reported stolen, but that was eventually determined to not be the case.

The Crown closed its case Thursday.

Vardigans will call evidence when the trial resumes later this year. It is expected that Dodds will testify in his own defence.



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