By Shurtz, Delon on September 15, 2020.
Gary James Lippa has two weeks to hire a new lawyer, or he could go back to jail until he does.
That was the warning Justice Dallas Miller gave Lippa Monday, when the accused attended Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench without a lawyer, contrary to a previous court order.
Lippa told court he made “numerous” phone calls to Legal Aid, but has been unable to get through. When pressed by the judge, he admitted he had only called about six times in the past five weeks, and blamed COVID-19 for the delay.
Lippa, who is accused of luring an underage girl so he could have sex with her, pleaded guilty in February to charges of sexual assault, child luring and making, printing and publishing child pornography. However, on Monday he told Miller he had been “badgered” into pleading guilty.
Sentencing has been adjourned several times since then, partly because he wants to withdraw his guilty plea and because he and his lawyer parted ways more than a month ago. Lippa was ordered on Aug. 10 to have a new lawyer with him when he returned to court Monday.
Despite the repeated delays, Miller granted Lippa a short adjournment to Sept. 28, but told him to try harder to contact Legal Aid and return to court with a lawyer or there would be serious consequences.
“You cannot continue this indefinitely,” Miller said.
He warned Lippa if he fails to follow court orders, the Crown will likely ask to revoke his bail and he’ll have to call Legal Aid while he’s in custody. Miller also told Lippa that striking a guilty plea is a difficult process, for which he will need a lawyer to help him.
Crown Prosecutor Carolyn Ayre said that in addition to the guilty pleas, Lippa signed an agreed statement of facts and admitted his offences. However, he has not co-operated with authorities since, which has caused delays. She said Lippa failed to complete a pre-sentence assessment the first time he was required to do so, and although a psychological assessment was postponed because of COVID-19, it was eventually started but not completed.
“Mr. Lippa basically walked out part way through,” Ayre said.
She refuted Lippa’s claim that he tried but couldn’t get through to Legal Aid because of COVID-19, and insisted he’s had plenty of time to hire a new lawyer.
“The pandemic has not affected Legal Aid in any way, shape or form.”
During the hearing Feb. 20 when Lippa pleaded guilty, court was told the accused dated the mother of the 13-year-old girl he lured into having sex with him, and often referred to the girl as his niece. After the relationship between Lippa and the girl’s mother ended, Lippa and the girl lost touch with each other until after she turned 13 in November 2016 and he began communicating with her online, often texting her graphic sexual comments and requesting nude photos of her.
In August 2017, the two met several times while she was in Lethbridge staying with friends of the family. On one occasion they went to his residence and had sex.
In September the girl’s mother found out she was inappropriately communicating with Lippa online and contacted the RCMP. The girl provided a statement to police and was told to stop communicating with Lippa, but he continued talking to her and helped her hide the communications from her family.
After the girl turned 14 Lippa continued to communicate with her sexually, then on Feb. 22, 2018 police arrested him, searched his home, and seized several electronic devices. At first Lippa denied having sex with the girl, but later admitted he did once.
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