A marriage in turmoil was the backdrop to the opening day of a trial involving a former Vernon police officer charged with possession of child pornography.
The defendant Ryan David Hampton, still remanded in custody, sat in the courtroom and listened as his ex-wife Valerie Anne Little testified how she discovered a USB drive that contained 62 images of child pornography, involving girls and boys under the age of 10.
Hampton faces three charges related to the child pornography possession and six counts of failing to comply with an order to not contact Little and one count of trying to obstruct justice in the investigation by telling Little not to contact police.
The case was moved from Vernon to Kelowna provincial court for reasons of efficiency, as the anticipated 10-day trial couldn’t be scheduled with available court time in Vernon.
Under questioning from Crown counsel Claire Ducluzeau, Little described her marriage to Hampton as combustible, one with constant destructive arguments and mistrust, coupled with many disagreements and reconciliations.
Little, who is now divorced from Hampton, first met him after she graduated from the RCMP training program and was assigned to the Vernon detachment, where Hampton was already working.
After she started her Vernon posting in 2009, the two started dating in 2010 and were married in June 2011. They would have three kids together. Hampton was previously married and also had two children from that relationship.
Little testified that she first noticed the USB drive with the child pornography in April 2013, and held on to it for 28 days wondering what to do with it. She didn’t believe her husband was a pedophile and she knew the evidence could ruin his career.
Burt Little said she had earlier become suspicious of Hampton’s online activities after she caught him typing child pornography into the search bar of their desktop computer in June 2012.
At that time, she put a password on the computer, and in the months that followed any link to Hampton and child pornography subsided in her mind, to the point where at Christmas of that year she purchased him a pink Samsung laptop computer.
But during that time, Hampton began to argue with her frequently and disappear for hours at a time, which the court heard was due to Hampton’s addictions to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. During that time, Hampton was already under a supervised treatment program through the RCMP detachment.
In January, Hampton passed out at their house and was taken to the Vernon hospital, where he was administered the drug Narcon to revive him from his unconscious state, which Little said the doctors told her was due to sleep apnea, although Narcon is commonly used to revive people who have overdosed.
Little said she discovered the USB drive atop a book shelf in the basement of their home in April 2013, and plugged it in to see what it was, saying she was immediately horrified by the child pornography images.
She confronted Hampton about the images, asking what he was thinking to have those images when he was the father at that time of their two young children.
“We had an argument about it, and he ran out of the house,” Little recalled, noting one of the images of girls looked very similar to their own two-year-old daughter which she said left her feeling rattled.
When he arrived back home, she had been packing his bags and kicked him out of the house. He protested saying “there was no one under the age of 10” on the hard drive.
Eventually, Little testified that Hampton explained to her he had downloaded what he thought was an adult porn file, so she gave him the USB drive. Hampton would give the file back to Little during another argument, telling her to “do what you want with it.”
It was about this time that Little also learned that she was pregnant with the couple’s third child.
She turned the file over to Vernon RCMP in May 2014, and was ultimately reprimanded for initially withholding evidence in a crime.
In his opening statement, defence lawyer Jason Tarnow said he intended to show Little knew a divorce was imminent and downloaded the child pornography images herself, using a laptop computer she had registered in his name, to build her case for a positive divorce settlement in her favour.
Tarnow said Little’s plan was to gain custody of their three children, get child support, and the equity in their home.
Tarnow said Hampton’s ex-wife took advantage of his addiction issues to create the child pornography scheme.
“Because of his addictions, his work suffered tremendously and his home life was full of turmoil,” Tarnow said.
He said there were inconsistencies in Little’s statements to police and in the preliminary inquiry into the charges which he would address in court.
Under cross-examination of Little on Monday, Tarnow challenged her knowledge of computers, which Little said was limited, and inconsistencies in her testimony with previous statements made to police during the initial investigation.
But Little maintained she has always tried to be truthful throughout the investigative process involving Hampton and brushed off any discrepancies in the timeline of events as not being able to remember or recollect specific statements she made previously.
“By the time of the preliminary (hearing) took place, I had only then come to accept this could all be true,” Little testified. “This just caught me right of the blue. I didn’t see it coming.”
The trial continues with Little to face further cross-examination followed by the testimony of other Vernon RCMP detachment officers involved in the investigation and other officers who were friends of both Hampton and Little.