TORONTO — Canadian singer Jacob Hoggardthe former frontman for multi-platinum pop-rock band Headleyon Sunday (June 5) was found guilty of sexual assault causing bodily harm against one woman, but not guilty of the same charge involving a 16-year-old fan.
Hoggard was also found not guilty of sexual interference, which refers to sexual touching of any part of the body on a person under the age of 16.
The separate assaults occurred in 2016 in his hotel room. One woman is from Ottawa and the then-teenager from the Greater Toronto Area. Hoggard, who took the stand in his own defense, pled not guilty to all charges.
During the trial, which began May 5, Canadian media in the court reported the two complainants described being violently raped. Hoggard said it was conssensual sex.
The verdict comes six days after the revelation of a new rape charge against Hoggard that was kept out of the media since March to avoid tainting the current jury.
The British Columbia-born Hoggard, 37, will face a new trial for one charge of sexual assault causing bodily harm. The rape is alleged to have occurred in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, in 2016 when the band was on tour. His lawyer Megan Savard, who did not respond to Billboard‘s request for comment, told CBC he would plead not guilty.
Allegations against Hoggard began to surface on social media in early 2018. The rambunctious singer rose to fame in 2004 on Canadian Idol (which has since been cancelled), signing landing in the top three before with Universal Music Canada for his band Hedley, along with a new lineup. Capitol Records signed them in the US in 2006 but later dropped them.
In Canada, their success continued with chart-topping singles, platinum certifications and headlining tours. Hoggard hosted the Juno Awards in 2015. Their seventh and final album, Cageless, was released in 2017.
But multiple women and girls told their stories online of alleged sexual abuse by the singer. In response, Hoggard issued a public statement on Feb. 18, 2018, which read in part: “I need to be completely clear: I have never engaged in non-consensual sexual behavior in my life. Ever. However, over the last 13 years, I have behaved in a way that objectified women.” He added, “It’s time for me to change. I’ve decided to step away from my career indefinitely. I will honor my commitments to this tour…”
Hedley’s agency, management and record label dropped the band and radio pulled their music from their playlists.
Toronto prosecutors charged Hoggard in July of 2018. He married his second wife on Dec. 31 later that year. They have one child.
The trial was originally scheduled to begin in November of 2018, but was pushed back several times, the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It finally started on May 2.
Billboard also reached out to Crown prosecutor Jill Witkin, who declined to comment.
The Canadian music industry has seen other allegations of sexual assault or misconduct surface online, but only two have resulted in criminal charges — Hoggard’s and media personality Jian Ghomeshi.
In 2014, after being charged with sexual assault, Ghomeshi fell from grace as the high-profile host of the CBC Radio talk show Q which also aired in the US on more than 170 Public Radio International stations. The former singer with a cappella group Moxy Früvous also managed electronic-pop singer Lights.
In 2016, an Ontario court judge acquitted him on four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking. A sixth charge was withdrawn. He disappeared from public view before launching a short-lived podcast. In April of 2020, he started a new podcast for the Iranian diaspora.
Since then, there have been other cases which have led to swift action. In October 2019, long-time promoter Ewan Exall was fired from Embrace Presents after an alleged woman in an online post that he raped, beat and bit her when she was 16, and had kept a folder of photos of underage girls.
In July of 2020, multi-platinum pop-punk band Simple Plan announced original member David Desrosiers was leaving after women came forward on Instagram and Reddit about his predatory and aggressive behaviour. “I have decided to withdraw from the band and seek professional help to educate myself and act appropriately in the future,” the bassist wrote.
That same month, cellist Danny Kenyon left alternative bluegrass band The Dead South after several women came forward on Instagram with allegations of sexual misconduct. He rejoined the band in June of 2021.
Stories about sexual assault claims can be traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can reach out to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). The organization provides free, confidential support to sexual assault victims. Call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) or visit the anti-sexual violence organization’s website for more information.