Block star not guilty: ‘This has destroyed Suzi’s life’
Former The Block contestant Suzi Taylor and her co-accused have been found not guilty of five charges, including extortion, assault bodily harm and deprivation of liberty.
Suellen Jan Taylor, 50, and Ali Ebrahimi, 24, had been accused of extorting money from escort client David Butler, with prosecutors alleging they assaulted him and kept him tied up in Taylor's unit for hours on October 30, 2019.
Taylor, a mother-of-two, cried in the dock as the five not guilty verdicts were delivered.
The jury deliberated for almost 10 hours before returning the verdicts on the sixth day of the Brisbane District Court trial.
Outside court, Taylor's lawyer, Michael Gatenby, said: "This has destroyed Suzi Taylor's life and one can only hope that she can resurrect herself again.
"Suzi's a mother-of-three children, she's got parents. This has just been a horrendous part of her life.
"Thankfully it's over and she's been found not guilty of all five counts."
Mr Gatenby said thought had to be given to the fact that Taylor had been locked up for an extended period of time for something that she clearly did not do.
Mr Gatenby said the irony was that Taylor remained in custody for breaching bail on offences she did not do.
He said he was hopeful she would be released on Wednesday, when he expected her to be sentenced on other minor charges, including multiple bail breaches.
Ebrahimi walked free from the court, declining to make any comment on the verdicts.
Taylor and Ebrahimi were found not guilty of deprivation of liberty, extortion, assault causing bodily harm in company, attempted fraud and fraud.
Despite the acquittal, former reality TV competitor and ex-Penthouse pet Taylor will remain in custody, as she still faces more than 100 unrelated charges, including drug, fraud, stealing, drink driving, trespass and breach of bail offences.
Central to Taylor's defence was Mr Butler's admission under cross-examination that he had previously lied in a police statement and while giving evidence at a committal hearing.
He had falsely claimed to have met Taylor, who worked as escort "Katie", on dating apps Tinder and Plenty of Fish, while he really contacted her via online site, Scarlet Blue, which advertised sexual services for payment.
Judge Suzanne Sheridan told the jury they had to consider whether Mr Butler's earlier lies were central to the case and whether they affected his credibility.
They also had to consider whether they accepted his explanation for the lies.
Mr Butler told the court he lied because he was "embarrassed and ashamed" about going to an escort.
David Butler told the court he agreed to pay Taylor, who worked as escort "Katie", $250 for half an hour of sex, but was detained in her New Farm unit for six hours, without having sex with her.
He claimed he was assaulted by both Ebrahimi and Taylor before he was released, later discovering $950 had been taken from his bank account.
Mr Butler said in the early hours of October 30, 2019, he and Taylor drank French champagne and red wine he had taken with him, before she took him to a bedroom and exposed her breasts.
He said she demanded he pay her $500 if he wanted things to continue and when he refused she called out "Ali, he's got no money".
Mr Butler told the court he was dragged from the bedroom by Ali and kicked and punched by Ebrahimi and Taylor, with Ebrahimi tying his wrists tied behind his back with phone cords.
He said after being assaulted by Ebrahimi and Taylor he gave up his PIN number.
Mr Butler alleged Ebrahimi threatened to kill him if the bank PIN did not work.
Mr Butler admitted under cross-examination by Taylor's defence counsel James Benjamin that he had recognised escort Katie as "Suzi from The Block" and that he had wanted to spend time with her and "charm" her.
He also agreed that he had deleted some texts between him and Taylor, exchanged before he went to the unit, before he went to police.
Mr Butler also denied that in a discussion with Taylor and Ebrahimi at the unit he agreed to pay $2000 for four hours with Taylor, but then offered to give her $950, because he only had $1000 in his bank account.
A doctor who saw Mr Butler two days after the alleged assaults said he had a cut finger and abrasions on his elbow, neck and inside an arm, but no facial injuries or bruises to his shoulder, torso or back.
Butler claimed he was punched on his face, ribs, upper body and arms.
Judge Sheridan told the jury to find Taylor guilty of the offences, other than the assault, they had to find she aided Ebrahimi or was a party to the offences.
The prosecution had to prove that the offences were committed by Ebrahimi and Taylor knew that the type of offences which were committed were intended.
It was not sufficient that she knew only of the possibility of the offences that might be committed.
Ebrahimi, who was represented by a barrister and solicitor for the first three days of the trial, decided to represent himself on the fourth day.
Taylor and Ebrahimi chose not to give or call evidence.
Ebrahimi's closing address to the jury took only two and a half minutes, with him asking if they could trust a man who had admitted lying to police and another court.
Taylor appeared season 11 of reality TV show The Block in 2015.
Days before the trial started, another trial was abandoned and a jury discharged on the first day, after Ebrahimi's then defence counsel Peter Nolan was injured when he tripped and fell outside the court building.
Originally published as Block star not guilty: 'This has destroyed Suzi's life'