Siri defence ‘not credible’

A Queenstown man who blamed the voice-activated program Siri for dozens of cellphone calls to his estranged wife has been found guilty of harassment.

Carl Ngawhika (32), cultural performer, was told by Judge Mark Callaghan yesterday he deliberately called the victim, Elisa Zagaglia, 32 times over 17 days in December of 2015 — most of them early in the morning.

Ngawhika’s Siri defence was "not credible", and he had reached the same conclusion about the defendant’s second explanation — a call-forwarding function on his cellphone was diverting calls to the victim’s phone.

If that had been the case, anyone calling Ngawhika would have spoken to Ms Zagaglia or left a message, and would have told the defendant what was going on, Judge Callaghan said.

The defendant’s evidence was unconvincing, and he was "evasive" during cross-examination.

"The calls must have been deliberately made by the defendant, and were made to harass Elisa Zagaglia.

"Thirty-two calls over 17 days from an unknown number would make anyone fearful."

He convicted Ngawhika and ordered him to pay the victim $750 reparation for emotional harm and witness airfare expenses of $1001.89.

He also imposed a protection order in respect of the victim on the grounds a harassment notice issued in 2015 had not worked.

"I can’t risk, from her perspective, that you do anything to her."

Ngawhika’s sentencing followed a judge-alone trial on Tuesday, at which the court heard how the victim fled to Te Anau in June 2015, soon after their separation.

Although she blocked the defendant’s number on her phone, she received several calls and an email on three separate days later that month.

She complained to police and the defendant was issued with a harassment notice.

Five months later, as she was beginning to feel "safe and secure", the calls resumed and she made another complaint.

When Ngawhika was interviewed by Queenstown police in February last year, he told the interviewing officer the victim’s number was listed as "Bitch" in his cellphone, and it was possible Siri was calling her every time he said the word out loud.

He also recalled the victim setting up the call forwarding function — diverting calls made to his cellphone to hers — after his phone went dead while they were on holiday in early 2015.

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