Tillman gets absolute discharge in sex assault case
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:06PM EST
Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman received an absolute discharge Tuesday after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting his children's teenage babysitter.
Tillman pleaded guilty to a single sexual assault charge Monday in connection with an incident that occurred in his home in August 2008.
Judge Murray Hinds told a Regina courtroom Tuesday he believed Tillman was "genuinely remorseful" for his behaviour.
"In this case there's no suggestion that Mr. Tillman is not generally of good character," Hinds said.
"He has no prior criminal record. His behaviour towards (the teenage girl) on Aug. 6 appears to be an aberration fuelled by his consumption of two non-prescription drugs, which he used for sleep and pain relief."
The judge's decision means Tillman is still considered guilty of the offence, but he will not have a criminal conviction and will not have to meet any sentencing conditions.
"While I'm very pleased obviously with the decision today, I want to make it very, very clear that a mistake was made and I, as I said yesterday, I assume full responsibility for it," Tillman told reporters Tuesday outside the courthouse. "Although it was without an ounce of malice or intent, it's a regret that I'll take to my grave. As I said yesterday I am profoundly sorry."
On Monday, Tillman stood up in court and tearfully apologized to the victim, his and her families and the Roughrider organization and its fans.
Tillman, 52, was arrested on Jan. 27, 2009 after the 16-year-old girl filed a complaint.
On Monday, court heard that on the day of the incident, Aug. 6, 2008, Tillman attended a board meeting at the team's facility, and board members noticed he was "acting loopy."
Tillman admitted that he had taken both a sleep aid and medication for back pain and was sent home, where the incident took place.
Court heard that Tillman came up behind the teen as she bent over to feed one of the children, put his arms around her, put his thumbs through her belt loops and pulled her toward him.
"While in that position there was physical contact that was clearly of a sexual nature," Crown prosecutor Bill Burge told court.
Tillman said he could not remember the incident or how he got home from the meeting.
The teen declined to make a victim-impact statement in court, but she and her family have accepted Tillman's apology, Burge said.
When asked what lessons he learned from the ordeal, Tillman said the experience has taught him how one mistake can have a devastating impact on so many other people.
"As happy as I am with the resolution, other people's lives matter. I hurt my parents, I embarrassed my wife," Tillman said.
"The onus is on me to earn respect. Hopefully I'm going to have another 52 years and respect is not given, it's earned. I believe I earned it. Most of my life I've earned respect by the way I've conducted myself, the way I've treated other people. And when I get up tomorrow morning the next stage of my life starts and I hope I can re-earn other people's trust."
Team to decide GM's fate
When he was arrested, the Roughriders placed Tillman on paid administrative leave. He was still involved in the team's operations, but was not allowed to appear at its facilities.
Roughriders president and CEO Jim Hopson released a statement Monday saying Tillman would step back from his responsibilities for the day-to-day operations of the team until the board of directors can decide Tillman's future with the club.
Hopson said the board will meet as soon as possible to make that decision.
"I love this franchise dearly. We've moved here, our family is here and I would love to stay," Tillman said Tuesday.
Tillman said he has been in contact with team brass regularly over the past week and "will respect whatever decisions that they make. I hope it continues, I very much hope that my relationship continues with this club, but if it doesn't I'll have a great deal of gratitude for the last three years for the privilege of being here and it will not end acrimoniously if that's the result."
Tillman, a native of Jackson, Miss., has had great success in the Canadian Football League.
He was general manager of the B.C. Lions when they won the Grey Cup in 1994 and the Toronto Argonauts when they won in 1997.
Tillman also served as general manager of the expansion Ottawa Renegades for three seasons.
After Saskatchewan's 2007 Grey Cup win, Tillman was rewarded with a contract extension through 2010.
With files from The Canadian Press