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Risk assessment ordered for disgraced youth leader

The fate of a disgraced aboriginal youth leader remains in question after the judge in his sexual-assault case agreed to have a psychiatrist conduct a risk assessment on him.

Thomas Edwards was due to be sentenced Wednesday morning for sexually assaulting two male youths between 2003 and 2007. Edwards fondled and molested them under the guise of performing an aboriginal "healing or cleansing ceremony."

He was convicted on Sept. 9, 2012, after a two-week trial.

Edwards gained prominence several years ago as a key member of the National Aboriginal Role Model program. Its website lists him as an aspiring actor and public speaker dedicated to enriching the lives of young people in his community.

Crown attorney Jennifer Mann asked the judge Wednesday for a lengthy jail term for Edwards. She requested 18 months on his conviction for touching one youth sexually and another four years for sexually assaulting a victim and refusing to let him leave the room they were in.

Defence counsel Ryan Rolston argued for a conditional sentence of two years less a day.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Colleen Suche said she is concerned that Edwards has not admitted his guilt and many of his supporters believe he is innocent.

"How do I deal with rehabilitation if somebody doesn't acknowledge they've ever done the act?" Suche asked. "How can they be rehabilitated?"

Rolston said it has been five years since Edwards was arrested and he has met his bail conditions. He is employed and engaged to marry.

Mann said she believes Edwards still poses a danger. He was a teacher when he was arrested. Fired from that job, he took another teaching position on the Lake Manitoba reserve. He was fired from that one too.

"His modus operandi is being a loving, caring person who people can't believe would do this. He has no remorse and is not accepting responsibility," Mann said.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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