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10 years for teen rapist: Crown

Landmark sentence sought in case

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Manitoba justice officials are seeking what might be an unprecedented double-digit adult sentence for a young offender who raped a woman during a home invasion.

Details of the July 2011 attack in Fort Richmond were revealed publicly for the first time this week in a Winnipeg courtroom, where the now-18-year-old man pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault and break, enter and commit robbery.

The Crown is seeking a sentence of at least 10 years, which justice sources say might be the longest-ever penalty for such a crime involving a youth in Manitoba.

The 27-year-old victim broke down in tears as she described the physical and emotional toll of being violated by the stranger inside her apartment.

"I've always had the ability to see the good in other people. However, now I find myself more fearful and distrustful having experienced first-hand how someone can act in a purely evil way to a completely innocent and undeserving victim," she said, reading her victim-impact statement aloud in court Tuesday.

The woman was home alone one evening last summer when she spotted someone trying to get into the window of her ground-floor suite. She called her husband who was at work, and made plenty of noise to let the intruder know someone was inside.

"But that didn't stop him," said Crown attorney Dan Angus.

The teen forced his way inside, chased the woman down the hallway and then jumped on her when she tripped over a bicycle and got injured.

Her husband heard her screams for help while still on the phone. He called 911 and raced home.

The teen repeatedly punched the woman in the face and upper body as she pleaded for him to stop, court was told.

She turned over the contents of her wallet -- approximately $55 -- but he continued to attack her and began pulling off her clothing as she tried to curl into a fetal position.

"He told her, 'Let me love you,' " said Angus. She tried to bite the youth and fight back. "Then he said, 'Let me rape you.' "

The sexual assault began but was interrupted moments later when the victim's husband came running through the front door. The teen jumped up and fled out the window he'd broken to get inside, cutting himself badly in the process.

"Who knows what would have happened if her husband didn't come home when he did," said Angus.

Police followed a trail of blood and found the teen a few blocks away.

He has been in custody ever since.

The youth has a lengthy criminal record and was on probation at the time for a previous break-and-enter conviction at the time of his arrest. He also has a long history of breaching court orders and comes from a troubling background, which includes abuse, neglect and a series of foster placements -- his most recent was in the same Fort Richmond neighbourhood where the victim lived.

The accused is fighting to remain under the control of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, where the maximum penalty he could receive is two years in jail. The Crown says that's not nearly enough for a crime of this magnitude and is seeking to have his case raised to adult court, where the maximum penalty is life.

"There was significant, gratuitous violence. In my view this is the most serious offence short of murder," said Angus. "This was a defenceless, vulnerable victim in her own home. The physical wounds (of the victim) pale in comparison to the permanent lasting mental trauma."

The woman told court she suffered cuts and bruising to much of her body along with a broken finger while trying to fend off the attacker. She has to take HIV medication to ward off any potential infection and is undergoing counselling and therapy. She still suffers from nightmares and anxiety and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I hate that I can't get the attack out of my mind," she said, in her statement. She works with at-risk youth in Winnipeg and is constantly faced with other troubled teens who remind her of the rapist.

"I have to still, somehow, have hope that these youth can overcome their environment and not deeply hurt their lives and the lives of others," she said.

The sentencing hearing will resume later this year, with further arguments from lawyers, before provincial court Judge Ray Wyant makes his decision.

"You're a very brave and courageous woman to come here today, and in public, to speak to us," Wyant told the victim this week.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 A3

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