Facebook records and high-school homework assignments provided the first real glimpse into the life of a man accused of running down dozens of people with a van, killing 10 and injuring many more, as electronic files seized as part of the investigation were entered into evidence at Alek Minassian’s murder trial Thursday.
Mr. Minassian is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in connection with the Toronto van attack, in which he drove a rented cube van down the sidewalk of busy Yonge Street, through hordes of pedestrians, on April 23, 2018.
Now 28, he does not deny planning or executing the attack, but his lawyer Boris Bytensky argues he should not be held criminally responsible for the attack because of a mental disorder – the details of which have yet to be revealed.
On Thursday, a series of agreed facts about the “incel” subculture were entered into court by Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan.
Incels (short for involuntarily celibate), court heard, “define themselves as unable to find a romantic or sexual partner, despite their desire or attempt to find one.”
Though 29 electronic devices including cellphones, computers and hard drives were seized from Mr. Minassian’s family home, the only evidence of his connection to the incel community (besides his final Facebook post) was a search history that showed searches for a man believed to be one of the forefathers of the misogynistic subculture.
Though Mr. Minassian had told Detective Rob Thomas in his interview that he’d personally been in touch with Elliot Rodger, as well as another well-known figure in the incel world, court heard there was no evidence recovered to support or disprove that claimed connection.
A series of old high-school homework assignments found on the devices were also entered as evidence – and Mr. Callaghan noted they had been provided to the “various psychiatrists and psychologists involved in this case.”
In several short essay-type reflections, Mr. Minassian mentions a “silly voice” that he explains he uses at school: “I should be using my normal voice because it would make everyone’s emotions happy and I would have more opportunities to be in conversations. However, I like using my silly voice because I get happy using it and I find it fun to be silly towards students,” he wrote.
In a September, 2007, assignment, he wrote that “this silliness is the reason people wouldn’t want to be with me, whether it’s for a group project or sitting beside me at lunchtime.”
He also writes at one point that he “pretends to be afraid of girls.”
In a November, 2007, assignment, he writes about a book for people with autism spectrum disorder that he says he “would recommend … for other students who have ASD because it is good to read a book about autism and Asperger’s syndrome when you have it. That way you can read about the symptoms and know how to deal with Asperger’s syndrome.”
In one assignment, about the Holocaust, he reflects that “it’s wrong to kill people.”
The relevance of these files – many of which were a decade-old at the time of the attack – has not yet been explained to the court.
Mr. Minassian’s Facebook and text messages from the months leading up to the attack were also entered as evidence. In one text exchange, he and a friend discuss the video games they are playing, and make plans to see a movie together. On April 21, Mr. Minassian messaged this friend to ask about seeing Avengers: Infinity Wars in theatres on April 27, though he quickly postponed the proposed get-together to May 6.
“Ok cool I guess we can get together then,” Mr. Minassian wrote, when the friend replied that the date worked for him. “Sorry about postponing.”
At 6:19 p.m. on April 23, the same friend sent him a text: “Hey Alek, are u doing anything today?"
Mr. Minassian, who had been arrested this point, did not reply. Shortly after midnight, the friend sent another final message: “Alek, I heard what u did … it was very deplorable … Im disappointed in you …”
The trial will resume on Monday.
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