James verdict 'a tragedy,' says victim
BILL KAUFMANN, QMI Agency
COCHRANE, ALTA. - The two-year sentence handed their abuser Graham James “is nothing short of a national travesty,” said two of his victims, ex-Flames star Theoren Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt.
And Holt, reading from a statement on behalf of both men, predicted James, once freed, will re-offend.
“Today as we speak, there is a boy going about his life, dreaming his dreams and hoping his hopes until Graham James crosses his path,” said Holt, who choked up at one point as his wife Kristen and son Taysen, 17 looked on at a Cochrane press conference.
“And cross his path he will, because that’s what he does, he preys upon the unsuspecting, all the while knowing not much will happen to stop him.”
Holt, 39, was a teen player with the Swift Current Broncos from 1989-94 when he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his then-coach James.
In a series of tweets following the sentencing, Fleury said closure for him happened years ago.
“It was about exposing the system,” stated Fleury, who joined Holt in calling for much longer sentences for child sexual abusers.
“Children are not safe in this country. Calling on the 8 million survivors to make a difference in the next election. Swing vote.”
In their joint statement, the two said James had succeeded in using a sob story to minimize his sentence.
“He conned the judge with his 'poor me' and 'I regret' statements,” he read, adding on his own, he could never accept James’ apology.
“I know he apologized in the court, I didn’t believe a second of it — he had many years to speak out but he hides, he’ll always hide.”
Holt said he doesn’t blame Winnipeg Judge Catherin Carlson, adding she’s only operating within the current system.
But he said the just-passed federal omnibus crime bill gives him hope that change is in the wind and that lobbying by fellow James victim Sheldon Kennedy has been crucial in it.
“They’re all going in the right direction, no pardons for sexual abusers, mandatory minimums,” he said.
But ultimately, he said no sentence would undo the damage James has wrought.
And he said the decision has provided closure for him.
“I stand here, today, a victor over sexual abuse,” he said.
“There’s the closure of knowing my life will go on today.”