Appeal court reserves decision on more time for Graham James
Published Monday, December 3, 2012 6:38AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 3, 2012 1:57PM EST
The Manitoba Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on whether former hockey coach Graham James should serve more than two years in prison for abusing two of his former players.
Crown prosecutors had argued Monday for a tougher sentence for the convicted pedophile, saying his original two-year sentence simply doesn't match the magnitude of his crimes.
James was found guilty of sexually abusing two of his former players -- NHL star Theoren Fleury and his younger cousin, Todd Holt -- earlier this year.
The abuse took place in the 1980s when the two were teenagers being coached by James.
"He has to pay the price for what he did to the victims and the community," Crown attorney Liz Thompson told court Monday, arguing that the two-year sentence was "unfit," given the fact that there were hundreds of incidents against the two victims.
At the time of sentencing last March, James’ lawyers argued for a conditional sentence with no jail time, while the Crown asked for a six-year sentence.
James' victims, however, have long felt that his sentence was not adequate punishment for the abuse they experienced.
Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHLer abused by James as a teen, said Monday that sexual abuse leaves a lifelong impact on the victims.
"I think that when we look at the impact not only on the individual but on society as a whole … the sentence absolutely does not fit what this crimes does to individuals. I think it's that old mindset of pull your bootstraps up and get going after something like this happens, and it's absolutely not true," Kennedy told CTV News Channel.
"There's a lot of evidence that shows that the impact of this crime is absolutely detrimental to a young person's life and what I see is a lack of understanding by these judges when making a judgment."
If Crown lawyers are unsuccessful in their appeal, James will be released in July. He is currently serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary just north of Winnipeg.
James had previously been convicted of sexual abuse in 1997, sentenced to three-and-a-half years for molesting Kennedy and two other players. The disgraced former hockey coach finished serving that sentence in 2001 after just 18 months, and was later quietly pardoned in 2007. He eventually ended up living and working in Mexico.
Fleury revealed in his 2009 biography "Playing with Fire" that he had faced years of abuse at the hands of James. Fleury then filed a criminal complaint against James in January 2010. James returned to Canada that same year after Winnipeg police issued a warrant for his arrest based on the new allegations.
Ahead of Monday’s hearing, Fleury wrote on his website: “I already know whatever happens on Dec. 3 with the Crown's application to appeal the James sentence (will) result in an inadequate outcome because the current justice system is not structured to be effective and protect victims, survivors, victors and advocates of childhood sexual abuse.”
While James became eligible for parole last July, he has not yet applied for such leave.
With files from The Canadian Press