VIRDEN — A former teacher’s assistant has been sentenced to two years in jail for an illicit affair with a 14-year-old girl.
The man, 35 years old at the time, had three sexual encounters with the girl, and then followed up with letters and Facebook messages.
“The accused spoke tenderly and romantically to (her) as though they were somehow boyfriend and girlfriend,” Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup said during sentencing.
The man can’t legally be named because doing so could identify the victim.
In June, the now 36-year-old, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference for three separate sexual encounters with the girl between April 4, 2011 and April 26, 2011.
A pre-sentence report was ordered to consider the offender’s aboriginal background and sentencing was set for Friday.
The man was a teacher’s aide for a Westman First Nation at the time of the offences. He was suspended from his job when the illegal relationship was discovered and then went to work at a Westman farm.
He was never a teacher’s aide or substitute teacher to the victim, but they somehow met during lunch-time or extra curricular activities.
Lonstrup said the offender and girl started to communicate through Facebook messages, email and text messages which appeared innocent at first. His wife found some of the text messages and told her husband to stop because the girl was only 14 years old.
But the man’s fascination for the girl worsened and took a disturbing turn while he was a chaperone to the girl, who was among a group of student athletes, who travelled to northern Manitoba in April 2011.
During the train trip north, as other students slept nearby, the man offered the girl a sip of liquor. He then asked her to kiss him, which she did, and he groped her.
On the way back home, during an overnight stop at a Winnipeg hotel, they had sex. The man didn’t use a condom which led the girl to later fear she may be pregnant, but that wasn’t the case.
Back home, the offender began to pass the girl handwritten letters in school. He would never sign his name and referred to the girl as “beautiful.”
They also created Facebook accounts with fake names so they could communicate secretly. In those messages, the offender wrote of his fear that the relationship would be discovered by his wife and principal.
He also asked the girl to send a sexually suggestive picture and tried to lure her into sexual encounters.
The “couple” did have one last sexual encounter. On April 22, 2011, the man came across her near a creek at the First Nation by chance and they kissed.
In each case, the girl was a willing participant but too young to legally consent.
The affair came to light when the girl’s sister happened to find the many letters which the offender had sent the victim.
From there, the school’s principal and police got involved.
Near the end, sensing he was about to get caught, the man had told the girl to delete all Facebook messages and, if anyone asked, she was to say they had only ever held hands.
Once caught, however, the girl opened her Facebook account for police, thereby revealing the messages the man had sent.
Copies of those messages were in Judge Krystyna Tarwid’s hands during sentencing on Friday.
Lonstrup noted that the girl blames herself for what happened, as though she had somehow ensnared the offender.
He added that the man’s wife has used her Facebook status to send angry messages to the girl as though she was “the other woman,” although the girl was never mentioned by name.
Defence lawyer Bob Harrison recommended an 18-month jail sentence for his client, a father of three children who had no prior criminal record.
But Tarwid imposed a lengthier jail term suggested by Lonstrup — two years less a day followed by three years probation.
“You took advantage of a person who was very vulnerable,” said Tarwid, who noted that the victim had only been two years older than the offender’s own 12-year-old daughter.
On his part, the man apologized as he cried in the dock.
The probation order not only forbids the offender from contacting the victim following his release from jail, it restricts any possible contact he may have with anyone under 16 years old.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 29, 2012