A B.C. Supreme Court jury in Powell River found Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana guilty Oct. 13 of sexual interference of a person under 16.
The 35-year-old, son of former BC Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji and stepson of former party leader Gordon Wilson, was found not guilty of a second count, invitation to sexual touching of a person under 16.
The 10-member jury and Justice Peter Edelmann heard the trial that began Oct. 3. Edelmann set Oct. 23 for a hearing to fix a sentencing date. Under the Criminal Code, the penalty for conviction is a minimum one year and a maximum 14 years in prison.
The judge and jury heard that Tyabji-Sandana met the girl, who was 14, when she and a fellow high school student volunteered on Saturdays at Tyabji and Wilson’s sheep farm beginning in January 2016 in order to collect credit toward high school graduation.
Tyabji-Sandana admitted in court that he never asked for her age. Tyabji and Wilson, who are no longer married, both testified that they assumed the girl was a senior high school student. While they both said they would not allow anyone under 16 to volunteer on the farm due to legal liability, they also admitted they never verified the girl’s age.
She left for a job in a grocery store after three months, but Tyabji-Sandana reconnected via email. They began a relationship through the summer that advanced to sexual intercourse in September of 2016.
Now 22, she testified that she told Tyabji-Sandana after their first kiss that she was 15. Tyabji-Sandana denied she said that, assumed she was 16 because of her demeanour and told her it was “good news” by email in late August 2016 when he confirmed the legal age of consent for sexual activity was 16.
Tyabji-Sandana also testified that he knew she had celebrated a birthday in the spring and that she did not have a driver’s licence. Their relationship did not go beyond fall 2016, but they met for dinner more than two years later when Tyabji-Sandana was seeking entry to the University of B.C. law school and was studying at the B.C. Institute of Technology.
Tyabji-Sandana told the court that he did not learn the girl’s true age until he was shown evidence disclosure at his lawyer’s office after he was charged with the two counts in 2020.
The jury began deliberations midday Oct. 12 and returned the next afternoon to ask Edelmann to clarify his instructions. He told them that the Crown had to satisfy them beyond a reasonable doubt that Tyabji-Sandana did not take all reasonable steps to learn the girl’s age, given the circumstances he was in.
Crown prosecutor Jeffrey Young had told the jury in his closing arguments on Oct. 11 that Tyabji-Sandana was wilfully blind about the girl’s age and did not take all reasonable steps to confirm her age.
Defence lawyer David Tarnow said Tyabji-Sandana honestly believed the girl was 16 because she appeared mature, ambitious and smart and he would have stopped seeing her had he known her real age.
The panel had started the trial with 12 members, but Edelmann dismissed two of them on Oct. 6 for undertaking independent research about the case. That was contrary to standard instructions for jurors to ignore anything about the case when outside the courtroom.
It was not Tyabji-Sandana’s first brush with the law. In 2018, he pleaded guilty in Calgary to attempting to possess a controlled substance and was sentenced to eight months of house arrest and eight months under curfew.
In 2015, the year before he committed sexual interference in Powell River, police busted Tyabji-Sandana in Calgary after a Canada Border Services agent in Vancouver intercepted a package that was addressed to him. It contained 122 grams of acetyl fentanyl, worth an estimated $348,000.
Tyabji was the Okanagan-East BC Liberal MLA from 1991 to 1996. Her affair with Wilson led to his leadership downfall, but they married and formed the Progressive Democratic Alliance.
Wilson kept his Powell River-Sunshine Coast seat in the 1996 election and eventually joined the NDP cabinet.
Wilson and Tyabji returned to the BC Liberals during the 2013 election when they endorsed Premier Christy Clark, who upset the Adrian Dix-led NDP and remained in power until 2017.
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