SAINT-JEROME, Que. — Some of the sex-assault victims of ex-ski coach Bertrand Charest have delivered impact statements at his sentencing arguments, with one telling the court he had robbed her of her childhood and acted like a predator.
Another was in tears in a Saint-Jerome courtroom today as she recounted how she lives with shame, guilt and disgust because of the sex assaults.
A judge called Charest a sexual predator when he convicted him last June on charges involving nine of the 12 women who’d accused him of crimes dating back more than 20 years.
Charest is appealing his conviction on 37 sex-related charges, with a lawyer for the former high-performance trainer alleging a lengthy list of legal errors made by the trial judge.
The 57 initial charges against Charest included sexual assault, sexual exploitation and one of sexual assault causing bodily harm. All but one of the victims and alleged victims was under the age of 18 at the time of the offences, with the youngest being 12.
Charest, who didn’t testify at his trial, was acquitted on 18 charges, while the court said it didn’t have jurisdiction over two other counts related to incidents that occurred abroad.
Some of the offences took place both before and during Charest’s stint with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998.
The national ski organization said in a statement after the verdict was rendered that the ruling sent a message that abusing authority has no place in sports or in society in general.
Later, Charest asked to address the court for the first time in his trial, just as Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lépine was about to adjourn, following the end of sentencing arguments.
He wept as he read a letter addressed to his victims, who he acknowledged by name, but did not refer to as victims. Charest said he was “profoundly sorry” for any pain he had caused them.
“I am very pained to have made you live through this trial that I would have liked for you to avoid,” he said.
He also said he loved two of his victims.
“At 25, I didn’t have all of the maturity and the tools to guide you,” he said, adding he was “no longer the person at 52 that I was at 25.”
The crimes took place between 1991 and 1998, the year Charest turned 33.
Charest also thanked his family for their support and apologized to his children for not being there for them, as he has been detained since his arrest.
Antonio Cabral, Charest’s lawyer, is asking for a four- to six-year sentence, saying that the 12 years the Crown is seeking is too harsh, given the fact his client did not have a criminal record before these crimes and has not re-offended since they occurred.
He also suggested his client was less “morally culpable” because the crimes happened in the context of what he described as “amorous” relationships, and that that context should be reflected in sentencing.
“There has to be a distinction between someone that is walking on the street and gets attacked by a sexual predator, and that rapes that person, and forces that person to have sexual intercourse with them,” Cabral told reporters after the hearing.
The prosecution has argued 12 years in prison is appropriate given the number of victims, their ages and the fact that he got a 15-year-old girl pregnant, leading her to have an abortion.
– The Canadian Press
Powered by WPeMatico