By Delon Shurtz on November 28, 2020.
A 40-year-old Lethbridge man who pleaded not guilty to several sex-related offences, then changed his mind and pleaded guilty, then later decided to strike his guilty pleas, has flip-flopped again.
Gary James Lippa was scheduled to apply to strike his guilty pleas Thursday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench, but before the hearing could begin, Lethbridge lawyer Scott Hadford abandoned the application and said his client would proceed to sentencing.
No reason was given for changing his mind again, but the matter has been adjourned to Dec. 14 to set a date in the new year for a sentencing hearing.
Last February, on the day Lippa was scheduled to stand trial, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault, child luring and making, printing and publishing child pornography. In July, however, when he was expected to set a date for sentencing, Lippa said he wanted to fire his previous lawyer and strike his guilty pleas. He told a judge the following September he had been “badgered” into pleading guilty.
Following his guilty plea in February, court was told the accused dated the mother of the 13-year-old girl he lured into having sex with him. After his relationship with the woman ended, Lippa and the girl lost touch with each other until after she turned 13 in November 2016 and he began 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 stepmother 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 the accused, 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.
Lippa is also accused in provincial court for breaching release conditions on his QB charges and faces three counts of failing to comply with conditions, to which he was ordered to obey when he was previously released on the sex-related matters.
During a previous court hearing, Hadford said he hoped to resolve the breach charges, but wanted to wait until after Thursday’s hearing in QB. The matter is scheduled to return to provincial court Dec. 3.
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