Guilty pleas in "egregious" intimate images case

Daylan Heidel to serve another 13 months in jail

It was an “egregious case of breach of trust.”

Those were the words of Judge Brent Klause in North Battleford provincial court Friday afternoon as he handed down the sentence in a case involving the dissemination of intimate images on the Internet.

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Daylan Heidel, 28, pled guilty Friday to four counts of distribution of intimate images. He also pled guilty to two counts of possession of unauthorized firearms, one count of failure to comply with an undertaking (no electronics) and one count of possession of a firearm which was an amendment to s. 92(2) of the Criminal Code.

On the main counts of distribution of intimate images Heidel was sentenced to 18 months in jail, with credit of four months and 27 days. That leaves a sentence of 13 months and 3 days remaining to run. That is to be followed by two years probation and several conditions, including forfeiture orders on electronics and weapons seized, as well as a no-contact order on three of the victims in the case. A DNA order as well as a 10-year firearm prohibition was also ordered, although there was an exception allowing him to possess a firearm to hunt and trap during hunting season.

A stay of proceedings was entered on the other offences, which included several weapons charges; the other count of distribution of intimate images was withdrawn as the count was subsumed into a separate information.

The sentence came about as a result of a joint submission by Crown and defence. The facts of the case were agreed to by both parties

The case involved intimate images of four victims which were distributed over the span of four years, from Jan. 1, 2015 to July 15, 2019. The images included photos and videos and were uploaded onto the xHamster porn site. The images ultimately ended up being seen on other porn sites including Pornhub. The photos were shared by Heidel without the victims’ knowledge or consent.

Heidel had claimed initially to police that his Instagram had been hacked, but police confirmed that there were no signs of a hack or malware.

One of the victims reported she received friend requests on Facebook from those viewing the images. The Crown confirmed to the judge that one of the images had been viewed over 1.5 million times.    

The victims cannot be identified due to a publication ban on the names in the case. Several victim impact statements were submitted and two were read in court, with one of the victims telling Heidel “I will never forgive you – you absolutely disgust me.”

Crown prosecutor Lana Morelli called the case “one of the worst cases of revenge porn” in seeking the 18-month jail sentence.

In his submission defence lawyer Ron Piche accepted the submission of the Crown and said his client was “ashamed for what he’s done.” He pointed to alcohol as being “very much a factor” in the case and pointed to his decision to enter an early guilty plea as a mitigating factor.  

Heidel was given the chance to speak in court and he took responsibility for his actions.

“I’ve ruined a lot of people’s lives,” said Heidel, who added “I just really want them to know that I am sorry and I’m going to do everything in my power to sober up and make sure nothing like this every happens again, because I don’t want to see it happen ever again.”     

In speaking to reporters outside, Piche said his client opted to accept responsibility rather than fight the charges on what is an emerging area of the law.

"To his credit, he never instructed me to put forward a vigorous defence," said Piche.

"There was potential for what people would describe as technical defences and the like. Daylan did not want to go that route. I think he felt a great deal of shame, didn't want to prolong this and accepted responsibility."

Crown prosecutor Morelli said both she and Piche had looked at the evidence and put forward a joint submission.

"18 months incarceration is not long enough for anybody. But given the statutory framework we are dealing with it's a good sentence, especially for Saskatchewan." 

She also acknowledged these sorts of intimate-images cases were becoming more serious and egregious just in the past couple of months. "Setting a precedent of 18 months in jail is a good start." 

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