A Supreme Court trial for a figure skating coach who's been accused of sexual crimes against minors started with police testimony Wednesday, as a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer told the court she believed the accused had been sending sexually explicit material to underage complainants over Snapchat.
Matthew Power, 29, was teaching the sport to teenage girls in the metro St. John's area when he was arrested in 2021. He's facing several charges, including sexual assault, making sexual material available to a minor, child luring, and sexual interference.
Power appeared calm in the St. John's court dock Wednesday, taking notes as prosecutor Nicole Hurley examined the officer on the stand who led the investigation against him.
Const. Amanda Harnum said Power allegedly exchanged sexual messages with the first underage complainant over Snapchat. What police say are copies of those messages were submitted to court as evidence — 27 photographs in total of messages exchanged on the popular social media app, taken with another cell phone.
They include references to oral sex, requests for sexual photographs, and suggestions that Power could pick up the underage complainant at night when she was home alone.
One of the messages was a photo of Power's face, Harnum said, with the text "I've been told I'm really good with my tongue." Another message read, "and once I start I don't stop 'til I'm done," she testified.
The RNC got involved after the complainant's mother, who can't be named due to a publication ban on the identities of the complainants and civilian witnesses, submitted copies of the messages to the RNC.
Power was between the ages of 26 and 28 when he supposedly sent those messages to the first complainant, Harnum said, explaining that police forensics who confiscated Power's phone after his arrest matched his Snapchat username on his phone to the ones in the photographs.
Power's lawyer, however, disputed the photographs' legitimacy, asking Harnum on cross-examination why someone unrelated to the complainant had access to the photos and had sent them to the complainant's mother.
"You never did find the original source of these photographs?" attorney Rosellen Sullivan asked.
No, Harnum responded, adding the person the complainant said may have distributed them refused to speak to police.
2nd complainant alleges sexual acts
Harnum also testified that a second minor had reported Power for sexual crimes in 2020, but initially decided not to proceed with the criminal complaint. She added it wasn't unusual for alleged victims of sexual crimes to halt an investigation before charges are laid.
But that second complainant proceeded with the investigation in 2021, after Harnum contacted her about the photographs.
Defense lawyer Rosellen Sullivan, left, asked a police witness repeated questions about how the RNC verified the source of the photographs that appear to condemn her client. (Malone Mullin/CBC)
According to Harnum, the second complainant alleged Power had sent her nude photos and videos of him masturbating over Snapchat, and asked her to send him the same. She reported that she had sent him sexually explicit photos in return.
The officer said the girl also alleged the two had engaged in sex acts when she was under the age of 16 at Power's house.
The girl was able to accurately describe the house, but Sullivan challenged Harnum, asking whether she'd verified the girl's statement by surveying the house and surrounding area herself. Harnum said she had not.
Sullivan also repeatedly asked Harnum about the existence of alleged rumours circulating in the community about Power and several teenage girls. Harnum defended her investigation, telling the lawyer she didn't typically launch a criminal probe into gossip.
Power has been suspended from Skate Newfoundland and Labrador since January 2021. He won a volunteer coach award with the organization in 2019.
His trial continues this week.