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Friday, August 26, 2016

Former Degrassi actor charged with making child porn

Jason "Byrd" Dickens among four people arrested in Toronto police investigation.

A former actor who played an abusive boyfriend on the popularDegrassi High TV series is facing a slew of criminal charges, including bestiality and sexual assault, after investigators discovered thousands of child pornography images and videos in what they are calling a “very serious” child exploitation case.
Jason “Byrd” Dickens, 45, is facing 26 charges, including sexual assault, making, accessing and possessing child pornography, and bestiality, following a months-long probe that kicked off in January, after a tip about a man uploading child pornography online.
Three women are also facing charges following the probe, including Dickens’ spouse, Dylan Anne McEwen, 31, who faces 10 charges including five child pornography related charges, sexual assault, and bestiality.
“The investigation has resulted in the rescue of children that were not only being sexually abused, but then further exploited by having this abuse permanently captured by the recording of it,” Sex Crimes Insp. Pauline Gray told reporters Thursday.
Investigators are concerned the pair had contact “with other like-minded people on the Internet,” and that there may be more victims in the community, she said.
Urging anyone with information to come forward, police allege Dickens used several screen names and email addresses when sharing and distributing child pornography. The names include Retrodeviant, Byrd_Dawg and Sir Dirk. Police allege McEwen used the screen names Doll, Dirty Doll and pretty_bitter_pill.
The couple also frequented several fetish websites, police said.
Toronto police Det. Michael Sabadin, of the Child Exploitation Section, said he would not provide details about the number or age of the victims. But he said investigators do not believe any children were involved in the alleged bestiality acts.
Investigators executed a search warrant at a home in April and found several devices containing evidence of child pornography, leading to arrests of two other women alleged by police to have interacted with Dickens.
Police allege Dickens and another woman engaged in the sexual abuse of a child between 2000 and 2006, and distributed pornographic images and videos online.
A London, Ont., woman, 57, who was not identified by police, is facing 10 charges, including two sexual assault charges, two charges of making child pornography, and distributing and possessing child pornography.
She is scheduled to appear in court in Toronto in October.
Dickens is facing six charges for child pornography and sexual assault in relation to that case.
A Thunder Bay woman was charged with one count of making child pornography. Tina Ewen, 25, is scheduled to appear in court in September in Thunder Bay.
In the early 1990s, Dickens appeared as Scott Smith on the popular CBC television seriesDegrassi High. Appearing in about 10 episodes, Dickens played the abusive boyfriend of Kathleen Mead, one of the show’s main characters.
Contacted by the Star on Thursday, Rebecca Saah, the woman who played Kathleen on Degrassi High, politely declined to comment on the charges against her former colleague.
In 1992, Dickens — then fresh out of high school and his stint on Degrassi High — was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who jokingly claimed to have been the head of Dickens’ fan club.
After two hours of deliberation, jurors found Dickens not guilty of sexually assaulting the woman and causing her bodily harm on June 2, 1990, when Dickens was 18.
During the trial, the Star reported that the complainant joked that she initiated a fan club for Dickens. Unlike other actors on Degrassi High, the complainant said, Dickens did not get any fan mail, so she promised she would help him get some and would write some herself.
With files from Alyshah Hasham   Toronto Star
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