Alleged ring leader in human trafficking case testifies at trial
The woman accused of being the ring leader in a human trafficking trial began testifying in her own defence on Tuesday, saying she never threatened the complainant at gunpoint and never held her against her will.
Jessica Vinje, 30, faces six charges including; forcible confinement, assault and unlawful use of an imitation firearm. She’s accused of confining a woman to a small, windowless room in her apartment for five days and using her as a sex slave.
Vinje told court that she and the complainant, who can only be identified as KM under a publication ban, met through a mutual friend in December 2017. The friend asked Vinje if KM could stop by her downtown apartment to drop off some belongings including a tablet.
“She seemed really sketchy,” said Vinje when KM first arrived at her 5th Avenue S.W. suite. "She looked uncomfortable…she was high.”
Vinje said they went to the mutual friend's home where they smoked meth and then they returned to her apartment.
Vinje admitted she didn’t know what date that was, saying days just blended when she was high on drugs.
She said KM, who told court she worked as an escort, asked if she could use her apartment to do a couple of calls, and Vinje agreed.
“She told me she needed to make money to get her things back,” said Vinje, who explained KM told her she was staying at a motel and had to pay a few guys to get back some belongings. “I figured it would be just for a night.”
Vinje told defence lawyer Rebecca Snukal her apartment often turned into a flop house, “I would just let anyone go there I guess.”
She testified that she allowed KM to use her laptop, which she believed was to access websites to set up escort calls.
Vinje said she did not participate in setting up any of the dates and didn’t see any of the money.
Vinje admitted that she punched KM in the face on one occasion, after a teen Vinje considers to be like a son, told her KM propositioned him to exchange a sexual favour for drugs.
Vinje said she was angry and told KM to leave, but then allowed her to stay at the apartment for another night because KM said she had dates arranged.
On one occasion, Vinje said KM left the apartment with her to meet a drug dealer friend. When Snukal asked Vinje if she put a mask on KM during that ride and held her at gunpoint, she said no.
Vinje told Snukal, in December 2017 she was a heroin addict and would also smoke meth.
She said she was on welfare and committed credit card fraud on a daily basis to pay for things like food and taxis.
Last week, KM, who was in her late 20s at the time, testified that she arrived at the apartment on Dec 8, 2017 to meet a potential client.
She said she was led upstairs by a male, where she said a gun was pointed at her and she was punched in the face and stripped down.
KM said she was beaten repeatedly and forced to have sex with multiple strangers, which were arranged by Vinje, who kept the money.
KM testified she managed to escape on Dec 13, when her captors were asleep and ran across the street to a liquor store to call 911.
KM was three months pregnant at the time of the alleged offences.
Snukal asked Vinje if she forced KM to commit sexual acts and if she forced her to have sex for money, to which she answered, no. She also said KM was not confined in the small den in the apartment and could help herself to food and water.
Vinje said she never had a conversation with anyone to sell KM as a sex slave. She also denied allegations she arranged a ‘discount day,’ offering KM to friends for $20.
Vinje said she turned herself in to police because she was scared. Vinje will be cross-examined by Crown prosecutor Donna Spanner on Wednesday.