February 24, 2012
No justice for Tom Jefferson
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Because he wrote a tell-all book and because he’s Theo Fleury — famous for being a hockey player and a victim and advocate against sexual abuse — Graham James is going back to prison. Hopefully for a very long time.
The length of his sentence will be determined in court on March 20. But the very fact police pursued James a second time, albeit slowly, was as much the result of how well known the complainant was and how much publicity a best-selling book had garnered in the process, pressuring the justice system into doing what was right.
There is, occasionally, justice for the wealthy and the well known in matters of terrible discomfort but I wonder: Who speaks for Tom Jefferson and others just like him?
Who speaks for the victims we hardly know or never know, the victims who don’t have the platform Fleury took years to find. Who speaks for those who may never get the opportunity to write or read their victim impact statements before the courts? Where is the police, I wonder, where is justice, in so many cases?
You may know Jefferson, but the odds are you don’t know him at all. He was once a hockey player, a junior, just not a famous one. If he became prominent at all, even momentarily, it was more circumstantial than anything else: it was because his brother, Mike Danton, and his family were too often in the news.
“There are no words to describe the suffering I have endured,” Todd Holt, the suddenly known former hockey playing victim of James, read in court on Wednesday in his victim impact statement. He said that just after saying he “couldn’t trust anyone anymore.”
When I read those words Thursday, I heard Tom Jefferson’s voice. He was speaking to me in the kitchen of his parents’ home just outside Toronto, telling me over the hours we sat together about the abuse he suffered as a 13-year-old at the cottage rented by David Frost, just outside Kingston. He spoke in detail, at times shocking, vivid, troubling detail, about the verbal abuse, the sexual abuse, the humiliation he endured in a two-week span more than a decade ago. And he spoke, as Holt spoke, of how it has changed his life, and how he couldn’t seem to run away from it, no matter what.
Just like Holt offered, Jefferson said he couldn’t trust anyone anymore. Holt is now 39 years old, a mature man, self aware and admittedly removed from the power James once held over him. Jefferson has yet to turn 25. He hasn’t found peace in his life. He has never had his day in court.
When my book, The Lost Dream, came out in October, I had but one wish. It wasn’t about sales. It was about impact: I hoped the Ontario Provincial Police, who once investigated the alleged abuse against Jefferson, would re-open the case. I hoped that the testimony of a grown adult, rather than a teenager, would hold up to scrutiny. I hoped that some of the witnesses, now adults, some coaches and parents themselves, would look differently at what they had said to police a decade ago, and tell the truth of what they saw and were part of.
I was even encouraged when an OPP detective familiar with the case and with Frost said detectives were reading the book with interest. The book details what happened to Jefferson. It wasn’t easy writing; It’s not easy reading.
In addition, police have photos of Jefferson’s abuse, of him being duct-taped naked to a bed, photos taken by those at the cottage that a former investigating officer believed would be enough to convict Frost on their own. But the same investigating officer, who called this case “the biggest injustice of his 31 years on the force” wouldn’t reveal details about it himself, because he, as a retired officer, didn’t want to undermine any colleagues. So he cared: He just didn’t care enough to try and make a difference.
The OPP said they were looking at this with interest. They told the Sun’s Joe Warmington that. But that’s as far as it’s gone. There is no investigation, even though there is a statute of limitations on this kind of crime. There is simply no appetite to re-open the case that they didn’t proceed with the first time around. And it doesn’t appear as if there will ever be.
Which makes me wonder: What if his name was Theo Fleury? What if he wrote a best-seller? What would the police do then?