As the first person ever found guilty of human trafficking in Nova Scotia walked out of a Halifax courtroom under the escort of sherrif's deputies, he mouthed to his victim "I'll see you" and directed a gun gesture at her with his hand.
The victim was 14 years old when Owen Gibson-Skeir pimped her out at hotels across the city between January and March 2016.
Gibson-Skeir, who remains in custody, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Halifax provincial court to three charges: trafficking a person under the age of 18, receiving material benefit from trafficking, and sexual assault.
More charges expected
Moments after telling the judge he did not dispute the prosecution's statement of facts in the case, the 21-year-old smiled at his victim and threatened her.
"There is a potential of him to be charged with intimidating a justice participant," Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell said outside the courtroom. "He remained emotionless throughout and then couldn't help himself."
Cogswell said that before the alleged threat she'd been planning to submit a joint recommendation, with the defence, for Gibson-Skeir to receive seven years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 22.
"That doesn't include any sentence with respect to what he just did up in the courtroom, allegedly," Cogswell said.
1st ever conviction
Gibson-Skeir's guilty plea marks the first human trafficking conviction in Nova Scotia under a Criminal Code of Canada section brought in a decade ago. The charges are difficult to prove, and often end up being dropped to lesser offences.
Cogswell said it was "an important day" for everyone who works on human trafficking cases, especially the Halifax Regional Police vice unit.
The victim, Cogswell said, was overcome when she learned of the guilty pleas.
"She was prepared, but she just collapsed, crying, relieved," said Cogswell. "She just hugged me and shook and cried and said thank you."
The court heard how Gibson-Skeir, who was six years older than his victim, asked her to call him "Daddy." He advertised the girl online, arranged for locations for men to have sex with her and took all of the money.
"Sometimes he gave her takeout, cigarettes and weed," Cogswell told the court.
He also slapped her in the face repeatedly, called her names and choked her, according to the statement of facts.
"When he began to see she was pulling away, he became increasingly violent," Cogswell said.
Gibson-Skeir demanded the girl pay a $10,000 exit fee. He threatened her family and sent her a picture of himself holding a handgun, the court heard.
'I'll take care of you'
The girl got caught up with Gibson-Skeir after months of running away from home. She was cutting herself with razor blades and smoking marijuana.
In December 2015 she started messaging Gibson-Skeir on social media to complain about her boyfriend. He replied: "I'll take care of you." Soon after, he returned to Nova Scotia from Ontario and they started meeting.
They had sex on at least two occasions.
"She was 14," Cogswell said, noting the girl could not consent at that age.
Gibson-Skeir convinced the girl to consider working in the sex trade. He promised it would only be one time, but it happened on several occasions over the two-month period.
After she came forward with her experience to police, the girl's parents decided to put her in a group home for her own protection.