No time behind bars for teenager found guilty of sexual assault in 2018 at St. Michael’s College

Prosecutors called for three months behind bars after the victim was sodomized with a broomstick in a locker room

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CAUTION: Graphic content.

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TORONTO – A teenager found guilty of sexually assaulting another student at a Catholic school for boys in Toronto has been given a two-year probationary period with no time behind bars.

A judge found the teen in June guilty of gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon after another teenager was sodomized with a broomstick in a locker room on St. Michael’s College School in 2018. An indictment for assault in the case was dropped.

Judge Manjusha Pawagi said she had to impose a sentence similar to those given to other youths in the same incident. She also found that the teenager was a strong candidate for full rehabilitation and would hardly commit another crime.

“Given that two young people involved in the same incident and in two others were sentenced to two years’ conditional imprisonment, and given the many mitigating factors described in detail earlier, I find that the less restrictive alternative to conditional imprisonment would be a proportionate and meaningful consequence that would hold (the accused) responsible, ”Pawagi said.

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Prosecutors had claimed the teenager should spend three months behind bars for what it called a “violent and humiliating” incident.

The defense had argued that the teenager should receive a probationary period of two years without jail, as well as four others who pleaded guilty to the same incident.

The sexual assault in November 2018 was captured on a 22-second mobile phone video and shared widely on social media before police launched an investigation.

The accused teen faced the same charges in a similar incident against another student in October 2018, but they were withdrawn earlier this year after the judge found there was not enough evidence to continue.

The news of the incidents and the subsequent police investigation resonated across the country and sparked a national conversation about ambiguity in youth sports. Police would eventually charge seven students for their alleged roles in the sexual assaults.

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No young person involved in the case can be named due to provisions in the Juvenile Justice Act.

The verdict comes after a witness to the assault in March 2021 told the court he could no longer remember what happened and who was involved in one of the two sexual assaults that took place on the school campus.

Earlier in early February, the witness had testified that the accused tore his pants down from a victim before another teenager shot a broomstick into his anus.

A lawyer for the accused teenager pointed out the discrepancies between the witness’ testimony in court and what he had told police more than two years ago.

“You say ‘there were so many people around so you can not really see if the guys are just pushing his friends, or if he’s grabbing one of the guy’s arms or something’, right?” Geary Tomlinson asked the witness.

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“Correct,” said the witness.

“You could not clearly see what was going on, could you?” asked Tomlinson.

“Correct.”

The accused teenager had pleaded not guilty to two charges each for gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon.

The charges relate to two incidents that took place on 18 October 2018 and 7 November 2018 in the locker room of one of the school’s football teams.

The court has heard from several students who identified the accused teenager as part of both incidents.

In October 2019, Crown Attorney Erin McNamara read the agreed facts about the series of crimes into the minutes.

McNamara told the court that three attacks took place during the fall 2018 football season at St. Louis. Michael’s, a private school for boys only with a number of high-profile alumni, where tuition runs over $ 22,000 a year, National Post’s Richard Warnica reported at 6 p.m. the time.

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The first attack took place in September after training. The teens were in their locker room in the basement of the school in the Tony Forest Hill neighborhood of northern Toronto. The victim was talking to a teammate as he was surrounded, picked up by his arms and legs and swung around. His teammates hugged him to the floor, turned over on his stomach and pulled his pants down. “Get costs!” people shouted before someone hit him several times with a hard object on his buttocks.

A video of the attack later spread through the school, showing one of the three teenagers pleading guilty, a team leader and veteran, standing over the victim with a broom.

A month later, after a fight, another member of the team was attacked in the locker room. He tried to run away, McNamara said, but someone tripped over him, and what he later described as a “crowd of captains” kept him down. They pulled his pants down, then someone pushed a broom into him repeatedly while other members of the team stood around him shouting and cheering. The last attack took place on the day of the junior football championship in November. St. Michael’s, traditionally a football powerhouse, won the match. In the locker room, not long after receiving their championship medals, members of the victorious squad attacked a third classmate.

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The victim that day was not even a member of the football team. He went into the locker room looking for a ride home, according to the agreed statement. Once inside, he was grabbed and held down. A video taken by one of the teens who pleaded guilty shows the other two tearing at his clothes and tearing his underwear apart.

Two different teenagers then penetrated him with the broom while the victim struggled and shouted at them to stop. The video, taken that day, spread around St. Michael’s store campus. Within a few weeks, eight students had been expelled from school and another suspended. The headmaster and the chairman had both resigned. By the end of December, police had charged seven students, most of them 15 years old, with sexual assault.

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The Crown dismissed the charges against one of the seven earlier this year. Two others have had their case resolved, although the exact details of this decision are unclear. The three ex-football players pleaded guilty in 2019 to sexually assaulting a classmate in one of a string of locker room attacks.

“Three really strong young people came forward and took responsibility for their behavior. They took responsibility for their actions, ”said Rachel Lichtman, the lawyer for one of the teens. “And we must all remember that in Canada we have a separate criminal justice system for young people. And there is a reason for that.”

Lichman said the teens involved were young and “could not appreciate their behavior”. She said schools and society as a whole need to work on educating children better so they know “what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.”

When a Toronto Sun reporter asked if teens really need to be specifically told that sexual assault on classmates with a broomstick is wrong, she replied, “Are there others who have questions?”

With further reporting from National Post writer Richard Warnica.

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