October 31st, 2020

Man hears from victim in sex assault case


By Shurtz, Delon on August 29, 2020.

Delon Shurtz

lethbridge herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Raymond man found guilty last year of sexually assaulting two underage girls when he was 18, will learn next month whether he’ll have to spend time behind bars for his 33-year-old offences.

The 52-year-old man, who can’t be named under a publication ban, could be sentenced to a federal prison term of five to seven years if Madam Justice Johnna Kubik accepts the Crowns recommendation. The Crown also wants the man listed on the national Sexual Offender Information Registry, and prohibited from being in areas in which anyone under the age of 16 may be present.

Defence, on the other hand, suggested several options Friday during a sentencing hearing in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s bench, which includes no custody, at all.

Lethbridge lawyer Robert Bissett has recommended his client receive a suspended sentence, which would put the offender on probation but keep him out of jail. Bissett also recommended a conditional sentence, which only applies to sentences under two years and allows an offender to serve custody in the community, typically a combination of house arrest and curfew. He also suggested that an intermittent sentence, which applies to jail sentences up to 90 days that can be served on weekends, would be appropriate. Only his last recommendation was for a period of actual custody.

In December 2019 Madam Justice Johnna Kubik convicted the man on two counts of sexual assault in relation to two girls, who are now adults, but found him not guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference in relation to a third woman.

The man admitted he assaulted one of the women multiple times in August 1986 when he was 18, but he denied assaulting the other two women, one of whom testified during trial that the last time he assaulted her was one week before his wedding in 1993.

Bissett invited the judge during his closing arguments in November to convict his client on one count of sexual assault in relation to one woman, but he said a second woman was simply confused about the dates of the assaults, which actually occurred when the accused was a youth, not an adult. He has already been sentenced in relation to assaults on the women when he was a youth.

The third woman, Bissett suggested, offered unreliable evidence during her testimony earlier in the trial as she tried to remember what happened more than 30 years ago when she was a child.

Although the accused never forced the girls, who were between the age of eight and 13, to participate in the sex acts, they were too young to legally consent, which resulted in the charges. The man was charged after one complainant reported the assaults to RCMP in 2016. The other victims were then contacted by the police.

Reading from a victim impact statement, one of the women said in court Friday the man’s assaults caused her irreparable harm, and she is still unable to forgive him.

“You were hoping that we would forget,” the woman said as she struggled to control her emotions. “I would like you to know that I have not, and will not, ever forget the disgusting acts you performed on me or the life-changing acts you made me perform on you. The traumatic, disgusting crimes that you have committed against me will forever remain in my memory.

The woman said her abuser minimized his actions and denied other assaults, even though she hoped he would do the right thing and confess everything he did to her and the other girls.

“You are guilty of so much more than what you have confessed to during this trial. Your day of reckoning will come and I’ll be there for that one, too.”

Crown Prosecutor Erin Olsen told court the focus of sentencing the abuser is not about helping him to be a fit member of society, because he has already changed his life and behaviour. And it isn’t to separate him from society to protect society, since the likelihood of him re-offending is considered low to moderate.

“This is about denunciation and retribution,” Olsen said. “Serious crimes have been committed, and from them have flowed serious consequences for the victims.”

Bissett told the judge his client should sentenced as if it was 1987 and he was still 18 years old, when his blameworthiness was that of an immature young adult.

He said Kubik should also take into consideration all of the mitigating factors, including his client’s guilty plea, his young age at the time, his lack of a criminal record, his low risk to re-offend, his voluntary confession and his demonstrated remorse.

Bissett also stressed the impact a lengthy jail sentence would have on the man’s family, including his aging parents for whom he provides care, and his health – he has Type 2 diabetes – which would be in jeopardy in jail where COVID-19 is a high risk.

At the conclusion of Friday’s sentencing hearing, the man stood and apologized to his victims, and said at the time of the assaults he did not understand the “magnitude of destruction” he caused in their lives, but he does now.

“I’m sorry for the anguish and pain that I’ve caused.”

Justice Kubik is expected to give her decision on sentencing Sept. 17, when she may also address a request by the Crown to lift the publication ban that prohibits identifying the offender.

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