Graham James sentencing arguments heard today

Former junior hockey coach and convicted sex offender Graham James is set to appear in a Winnipeg courtroom as lawyers present sentencing arguments.

James pleaded guilty on Dec. 7 to sexually assaulting former NHL star Theoren Fleury and another male player he had coached in the 1980s and early '90s.

Fleury is not attending Wednesday's sentencing hearing, although his victim impact statement will be entered in court and he is planning to hold a news conference in Vancouver to talk about the case.

The other victim, who cannot be named due to a court-ordered publication ban, will also not be present.

But former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who was the first to come forward with sex-abuse allegations against James in 1996, said he plans to be there.

"I want to be in the court and I'm in a totally different frame of mind. I'm actually [wanting] to be there," Kennedy told CBC News.

It is not known if there will be a decision on James's sentence on Wednesday.

The latest case against James involved a total of nine sex-related charges involving three former minor hockey players, including Fleury, who was recruited at age 13 and moved from his hometown of Russell, Man., to play junior hockey in Winnipeg.

The charges he pleaded guilty to involved encounters between 1983 and 1994 that occurred in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Charges involving 3rd man stayed

Crown prosecutors told the court in December that James repeatedly fondled the two victims on various occasions while they slept.

The assaults became more sexual in nature over time, eventually including masturbation and oral sex, the court heard.

James pleaded guilty to the charges involving Fleury and the second man, while charges involving the third complainant, Greg Gilhooly, were stayed.

Gilhooly, who agreed in December to have the publication ban removed from his name, said he is also going to be at James's sentencing hearing.

"I'm a little anxious," he said. "I haven't seen Graham in person for 30 years, and I don't know how I'm going to react when I see him."

Gilhooly said James approached him at a hockey tournament in 1979, when he was a 14-year-old goalie in Winnipeg.

Now a corporate lawyer based in Oakville, Ont., Gilhooly said he is not expecting much from James's sentencing hearing.

"I was probably kidding myself if I thought I was ever going to get an apology from Graham, let alone a satisfactory sentence," he said.

Kennedy said he has heard that James may get a conditional sentence on the latest charges.

Pardoned in 2007

In 1997, James pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Kennedy and two other young hockey players in the 1980s and '90s.

James was sentenced to 3½ years behind bars for those charges, but served just 18 months of that sentence before being released. He moved to Mexico after being pardoned by the National Parole Board in 2007.

Then in 2009, Fleury revealed in his autobiography, Playing With Fire, that James had molested him.

Fleury then ignited the latest charges against James by going to police in Winnipeg in January 2010 and filing a criminal complaint.

Police launched an investigation that led to Gilhooly and the other complainant coming forward.

CBC News and the Globe and Mail jointly located James in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the spring of 2010.

James returned to Canada after Winnipeg police issued a warrant on the new charges that fall.

Kennedy pushes for tougher laws

Kennedy said he will continue to push for changes, regardless of what sentence James receives on the latest charges.

"I'm pushing for any crimes against a kid," he said.

Kennedy told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he supports proposed new mandatory-minimum sentences for sex offences against minors, but he also said no pardons should be granted to those offenders.

"He paid $50, got a rubber-stamp pardon, took off to Mexico with a clean record, [a] name change and a chance to start offending yet again," Kennedy said of James. "Now he's out on bail facing the same charges."

Gilhooly said no sentence for James will change what he said happened to him.

"It's got to come to an end somehow, and I think it is important for me to stand up and look Graham in the face and let him know that he no longer has any power over me," he said.

"He can play whatever game he wants to play, denying what he did to me, but I know who he is and what he did."

External Links

Theoren Fleury victim impact statement