High Court trial opens of man accused of sexually abusing teens

Earl William Opetaia.
Earl William Opetaia. Photo credit: RNZ / Jordan Bond

The Crown has opened its court case against a former Child, Youth and Family-approved carer who is accused of sexually abusing eight teenage boys and threatening to kill one.

Earl William Opetaia, a former boxing coach who cared for young boys at an Auckland home in the early-to-mid 2000s, pleaded not guilty to all 33 charges which included sexual violation and indecency against boys under 16.

At the High Court at Auckland, Crown lawyer Belle Archibald said Opetaia used these boys in his care - of whom many were vulnerable - for his own sexual gratification.

She said this occurred over years while he was being paid by the state to take care of them.

Archibald said Opetaia then went on to threaten some of them with physical or sexual violence if they told anyone about what happened, including threatening to kill one and get his "connections" or "the gang" on to him.

The Crown alleged Opetaia told one boy "I get what I want, when I want".

The particulars of the alleged sexual abuse the Crown says occurred are too graphic to publish.

Archibald told the jury the main decision they would have to make was determining whether these events happened as alleged. Evidence from complainants will be given throughout the trial.

Child, Youth and Family was a Government agency and predecessor to Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children.

Defence counsel Anoushka Bloem said Opetaia does not accept the allegations and that they "are untrue".

"He did not abuse them, sexually or physically. He did not abuse them. He helped them," she said.

She said the complainants were trying to make money by alleging sexual abuse in state care. She suggested that many of the complainants had spent time in the same jail block and had a long history of lying and other complaints of abuse.

Bloem said the "fabricated" complaints were only raised once police started to speak to those formerly cared for by Opetaia.

"They are claims for money," Bloem said.

She said there were many "success stories" as a result of Opetaia's care for the boys, which contrast with the allegations because the claims are not true.

The trial, before a jury and Justice Gault, is set down for six weeks.