By Delon Shurtz on February 20, 2021.
A 40-year-old Lethbridge man who spent more than a year grooming a 13-year-old girl to have sex with him, has been sentenced to serve four years in a federal penitentiary.
Justice Dallas Miller said Friday in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench, that Gary James Lippa lured the vulnerable girl over a number of years until they finally agreed to meet at his Lethbridge home in August 2017.
“Conversations led by the accused were detailed, specific, sexual, and luring, and were all designed to have this young and vulnerable complainant to share explicit photos and videos with her, and come to his residence on her summer holidays for the express purpose of sexual intercourse,” Miller said.
“The grotesque themes and details of the accused’s conversations with the complainant are not what any 13-year-old girl should be subjected to by a family friend 25 years her senior.”
Lippa pleaded guilty last February to charges of sexual assault, child luring and making, printing and publishing child pornography, but five months later told court he wanted to apply to strike the guilty pleas.
On Nov. 26 he changed his mind, and his lawyer said Lippa was prepared to be sentenced.
Following Lippa’s guilty pleas, the Crown told court Lippa dated the girl’s mother, but after that relationship ended and he lost touch with the girl, 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.
In seeking a four-year sentence, Crown Prosecutor Carolyn Ayre told Miller Lippa committed a major sexual assault against a minor and groomed her through hundreds of text messages, chats, video conferences and phone calls. He convinced her be in a child pornogrphy video, and she believed they were in a relationship and in love.
When Lippa was finally caught, he didn’t show any signs of remorse, and instead blamed the girl, suggesting he shared sexual messages with the girl because she wanted to.
“In fact, in the Crown’s submissions, some of his comments also suggest that Mr. Lippa believed that he was actually doing (the girl) a favour by chatting sexually with her.”
Ayre added Lippa said he was trying to build the girl’s confidence and make her feel better about her self.
Lethbridge lawyer Scott Hadford asked the judge to sentence his client to no more than three years in prison, and argued Lippa’s remorse shown by his guilty plea, along with his personality disorder and mental deficits, warrants a lower sentence that recommended by the Crown.
Hadford asked Miller to exercise restraint in Lippa’s case and show mercy, and not penalize him for the length of time it took to finally resolve the matter.
In her victim impact statement read to the court, the girl wrote she is afraid what happened to her will happen again, and that Lippa will come after her.
Miller also noted the impact Lippa had on his victim, and said “it goes without saying, that this young victim has been traumatized and violated probably more than she even realizes at this time.
“As surely as night follows day, this young victim will face psychological and emotional trauma for years to come.”
Although Miller noted that only one year separates the sentencing recommendations by the Crown and defence, he said this case does not lend itself to a compromise between the two submissions.
“Denunciation and deterrence cry out for a term of incarceration that is considerably more than what counsel for the accused submits.”
In addition to the prison term, for which Lippa was given credit for seven and half months he spent in pre-trial custody, Lippa must submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank, and register for life with the Sex Offender Information Registry. He is prohibited from contacting the girl and her family, from possessing weapons for 10 years, and he cannot for 20 years after he is released volunteer or work with minors, or attend areas such as pools, playgrounds and other areas where anyone under the age of 16 is likely to go. He is also prohibited from using a computer to communicate with anyone under the age of 16.
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