A full-day bail hearing was supposed to take place Wednesday in Sarnia for the 24-year-old Toronto woman accused of extorting a local man by threatening to distribute intimate images.
But it was canceled at the last minute and all of the charges were abruptly dropped after the accused agreed to a peace bond – a move the complainant, who had a sexual relationship with the woman but is married and didn’t want to testify, asked the Crown to make.
Sarnia police said last month the pair met through the woman’s online advertisement for sexual services. They engaged in a personal arrangement and, over time, the accused obtained intimate images and personal information, they added.
The accused then allegedly threatened to distribute the images online to the complainant’s friends and family unless money was paid. This alleged extortion carried on for a while until the complainant came forward to police last month and the Sarnia police criminal investigations division began an investigation, they said.
Police said an unidentified suspect, already facing outstanding charges in the Toronto area including attempted murder, was arrested in Sarnia Jan. 15 while supposedly coming to the city to collect a large amount of money.
Court records revealed Chiliana May, 24, was arrested that day and charged with extortion and four counts of failing to comply with a release order. The charges were linked to a ban on using computers and the internet, a curfew, and house arrest, the documents said.
May made a handful of virtual appearances in Sarnia courtrooms from the city’s jail as her lawyer, Sharon Jeethan from Toronto firm HWJ Criminal Lawyers, organized the full-day bail hearing with the Lambton Crown attorney’s office. But just as it was set to start Wednesday it was canceled and the case was moved to a judge’s court, where May agreed to a three-year common-law peace bond in exchange for the charges being dropped.
May admitted no wrongdoing – she has no criminal record at all – while agreeing not to contact the man or his family.
Local criminal defense lawyer Terry Brandon, who represented May on behalf of Jeethan, explained to Justice Mark Poland the woman was in a relationship with the man – the prosecutor added at times it included the exchange of sexual services for money – but that’s now over and she confirmed she’ll stay away from him. May also doesn’t know who the man’s family members are, she added.
Assistant Crown attorney Nicole Godfrey further explained the case had triable issues and there was a significant lack of a reasonable prospect of conviction, primarily relating to the man’s reluctance to testify.
“He is satisfied to see the charges withdrawn in favor of a bond with protective terms for him and his family,” she said.
The bond also bans May from weapons.
Despite the charges being dropped, she was kept in custody that day as the Crown in the Peel Region wanted her bail revoked. She’s still facing charges in Brampton and Newmarket, records show.