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'He now feels he carries a heavy stigma,' parents of St. Mike's victim say

TORONTO — A teen boy still cannot address being sexually assaulted by his football teammates in the locker room at a prestigious all-boys Catholic high school last year, a youth court heard Thursday.
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TORONTO — A teen boy still cannot address being sexually assaulted by his football teammates in the locker room at a prestigious all-boys Catholic high school last year, a youth court heard Thursday.

The boy could not bring himself to write a victim impact statement because it would force him to relive the experience, the prosecutor said at a sentencing hearing for three former students of St. Michael's College School.

The three pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon against two victims. Another teen also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording the sex assault with his phone.

The boy's parents wrote a victim impact statement, which was read out in court by Crown attorney Erin McNamara. They said the teen has struggled since he was sexually assaulted with a broom handle by a group of boys on Nov. 7, 2018.

"He now feels he carries a very heavy stigma," they wrote. "We have had to carry this burden alone."

But his parents said the teen is struggling, as is his sibling.

"They feel very helpless," the parents said through the prosecutor.

They said they can't tell what's normal teenage emotion and what's related to the trauma of being sexually assaulted.

McNamara said the other victim and his family declined to give a statement.

The Crown is seeking a sentence of 12 to 15 months in jail for two teens and 10 to 12 months for the third boy. The lawyers for each teen have asked for two years probation with no jail time.

The charges stem from two separate incidents that happened in October and November of last year. None of the accused or the victims can be identified due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The allegations sparked a national conversation about bullying when they surfaced last year.

Court heard at the guilty plea that the three boys were part of one of the school's football teams. In one incident in Oct. 17, 2018, court heard, the boys took down their teammate in the school's locker room, ripped his pants off and inserted a broom handle into the boy's anus.

A similar incident occurred on Nov. 7 after a football game when a teen who wasn't on the team came into the locker room looking for a ride home and was jumped by a group of boys.

The group pulled the teen's pants down and two teens sexually assaulted him with a broom handle. That incident was captured on video and shared widely on social media.

On Thursday, the judge viewed the video in a separate courtroom with the Crown attorney and the three teens' lawyers.

"What the Crown sees is a willing escalation of risk-taking behaviour and violence," McNamara said. "I am asking you to denounce this unlawful conduct. What we're trying to do here is hold these young people accountable."

Court heard that all three underwent medical and psychological evaluations, which found the risk for all three to re-offend is low.

One of the teens' lawyers said her client had been abused by his father at a young age, yet was able to excel both academically and athletically. Rachel Lichtman said his life would be ruined if he is sent to jail.

"Society doesn't benefit in any way by sending any of these three youth to jail," she said, adding that the teen is remorseful.

"It turned into something it shouldn't have, I'm really sorry for what I've done and I'm willing to face the consequences," the teen told a doctor that was part of a pre-sentence report.

Jeff Mazin said the teen he represents is also remorseful and hopes the victims can and their families can recover.

"But he appears he didn't realize the gravity of the situation until he got in trouble," Mazin said.

The other teen's lawyer echoed the other defence lawyers, who partially blamed a "culture of bullying" at St. Michael's.

"These boys are taking a bullet for what existed, an environment that was created ripe for them to act to the point they did act, and we're all trying to make sense of it because it doesn't make sense," said Rocco Loccisano.

The sexual assault and assault charges against a fourth student were withdrawn in August.

The cases of two other students accused in the scandal have concluded, but the Ministry of the Attorney General has refused to disclose those outcomes.

But court heard Thursday that one of those students pleaded guilty and received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time. It remains unclear what he pleaded guilty to.

The charges against the other teen were dropped, court heard. 

A seventh teen is set to go to trial next March.

The judge is expected to sentence the trio on Dec. 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2019.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press




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