Graham James pleads guilty

Former junior hockey coach Graham James has plead guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting two...

Former junior hockey coach Graham James has plead guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting two young hockey players, including Theo Fleury (pictured). (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency/Files)

DEAN PRITCHARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 AM ET

WINNIPEG - One year to the day after Graham James was granted bail, the disgraced former junior hockey coach and scout pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two young hockey players under his wing.

James, 58, entered his guilty pleas by video link from Montreal, where he has lived since his release on bail last December. He admitted to repeatedly sexually assaulting former NHL star and Russell, Man., native Theo Fleury between 1983 and 1985 and doing the same to a second unidentified teen between 1989 and 1994.

Crown attorney Colleen McDuff told court the abuse started with fondling the victims as they slept and graduated to masturbating and ejaculating on their feet and performing oral sex on them.

James was convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting two teenage hockey players, including former NHL player and Elkhorn, Man., native Sheldon Kennedy, and was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison. The following year James was convicted of sexually assaulting a third boy in 1971 and sentenced to six months concurrent to the sentence he was already serving.

James was pardoned for those offences in 2007.

Calling pedophilia an “epidemic”, Fleury criticized the Canadian justice system for how it dealt with James in issuing the pardon to the previously convicted child sex abuser who then left the country, only to be granted bail when brought back to Canada on new charges.

James was living and working in Mexico when Winnipeg police issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest in October 2010.

He returned to Canada on Oct. 27 and was taken into custody.

Fleury also said James’ guilty plea doesn’t bring him closure to what happened to him in his past.

“Closure for me is when we put every last pedophile behind bars for good and we end this cycle,” he said.

The Crown stayed five charges which duplicated charges to which James pleaded guilty, the Crown also stayed two charges involving a third complainant, Greg Gilhooly.

The court lifted a publication ban preventing the media from identifying Gilhooly by name. Kennedy said Gilhooly was in his thoughts Wednesday on what he called an “important day” that he hopes will keep the issue of child sexual abuse in the spotlight.

“I think it’s really hard, because that’s probably one of the biggest things abuse victims are scared of is that they are not going to be believed,” he said.

“And Greg, what people don’t know is he is the individual who brought the whole pardon issue to light over a year ago so he has done a lot behind the scenes.”

James will appear in Winnipeg on Feb. 22 for sentencing. He remains free on bail. His bail conditions include a requirement he not be alone with anyone under 18.

McDuff said the Crown is still waiting to receive a psychiatric report for James as well as victim impact statements.

The Crown and defence will not be agreeing on a sentence.

McDuff said she will be seeking a penitentiary sentence.

— With files from Katie Schneider


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