CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault.
An alleged bikie nominee found guilty of raping a social media influencer after a night out clubbing in Canberra has been sentenced to five years and three months’ jail.
Chidi Chike Okwechime had no visible reaction to the news on Tuesday (30 August), nor when told he would spend at least three years behind bars on a non-parole period.
The influencer had been out in Civic to celebrate a birthday party in May 2021 before she met Okwechime and his friends, Acting Justice Stephen Norrish told the ACT Supreme Court.
She drank and took cocaine with his friends during the night and went to the nightclubs Kokomo’s and Fiction before heading back to his friend’s unit at about 4 am because she wanted to recharge her phone.
While she also thought there was going to be a party at the unit, the only people there were her, Okwechime, the friend and his girlfriend and the latter two disappeared into a bedroom, leaving the others on the couch.
The influencer said she told Okwechime she wanted to go home, but he started kissing her and then raped her for the first time, even though she tried to wriggle away before she was dragged into a room and raped again.
She said she was crying, told him to stop and that she wanted to go home.
“I hate it when you say that. Stop telling me to stop,” she said he told her.
He choked her for about 15 seconds while continuing to rape her. He eventually stopped, called her an Uber and she left.
Okwechime claimed he had performed consensual sex acts on the influencer, both on the couch and in the room, and she agreed when he asked if she wanted to have sex.
He claimed they started having sex before she told him, “You raped me”, so he stopped. She then left the unit, leaving him shocked and bewildered, he said.
However, the 34-year-old was acquitted on two other counts of sexual intercourse without consent. His bail was revoked after the verdicts and he has been in custody since then.
The influencer has already told the court about the impact of the ordeal, during which she addressed her rapist and told him, “You’ve ruined me”.
“You did this. Was it all worth it? Did you get what you wanted?” she said.
Acting Justice Norrish said what she endured would have been traumatic and sexual assault must be regarded as a horrific experience.
But he also said the verdicts showed the jury did not accept everything the influencer claimed happened inside the unit.
He said some assertions made in the victim impact statements were at odds with how the influencer had spoken to a current affairs program to promote her version of events. In those conversations, she had asked to downplay or eliminate the extent of her drug taking.
Before the verdicts were returned, the court heard Okwechime had been “ambushed” by a camera crew from 60 Minutes along with their reporter Tara Brown as he left the courthouse.
Barrister Steven Whybrow claimed the crew put a microphone in front of his client and asked why he wasn’t answering questions.
At the time, Acting Justice Norrish said it was “quite improper for him to be filmed in that way while the jury is deliberating”.
On Tuesday, he said while the court had heard the influencer’s family had fears of retribution, there was no evidence Okwechime or his family had tried to intimidate her.
Okwechime, a carpenter, has a lengthy criminal history. He was on parole for a four-year jail sentence imposed in the NSW District Court when he raped the influencer but had no prior history of sexual offending or violence against women.
Acting Justice Norrish noted there was no evidence of contrition and Okwechime had been assessed as being at an above-average risk of sexual reoffending, but this was in part due to how he still denied the influencer’s claims.
He will be eligible to be released on parole in June 2025 but is appealing his convictions.
When he was arrested in 2021, court documents alleged he was a nominee of the Comancheros; however, this allegation was untested in court.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.