Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ten-year sentence sought for sex attack on teen girl

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Crown and defence lawyers are miles apart in what they feel is a fit punishment for a former gang member convicted by a jury of a prolonged brutal sexual assault of a teen girl.

Crown lawyers appeared in the Court of Queen's Bench Wednesday seeking a 10-year prison term for Richard Rondeau, 28.

Rondeau's lawyer asked Justice Gerald Chartier to impose no more than five years, with extra credit for the 25 months he's spent in protective custody remand awaiting trial.

A jury found Rondeau guilty in March of several charges, including sexual assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats in connection to a two-hour attack on a 17-year-old girl early on Sept. 3, 2011.

He and the victim were walking together from a West Kildonan home when he grabbed her from behind and choked her before dragging her and sexually assaulting her in a lane behind a gas station.

She was then taken to various other locations and assaulted. At some point during the attack, the victim managed to place a number of 911 calls for help — calls which were played for jurors. Crown prosecutor Dan Chaput called the recordings "heart wrenching," that they showed a girl in "dire need" of help.

She "never had a chance," said Chaput. "She was no match for the accused's size, strength and conviction… she was unable to flee or defend herself," he said, calling Rondeau's attack "pointed and purposeful."

Rondeau admitted he had sex with the girl but claimed it was consensual. He claimed the girl fabricated the attack, fearing reprisal from her boyfriend, a friend of Rondeau's described as a violent member of the Native Syndicate gang who was in jail at the time. "This is a case about infidelity," defence lawyer Jody Ostapiw told jurors.

Chaput pointed to Rondeau's lengthy record of more than 36 convictions, saying in the last 11 1/2 years he's spent seven of them in jail either as a remand or sentenced inmate — and the rest of the time subject to probation. He has only one prior conviction for violence, however.

"If it's worth it, he'll do it," Chaput said, repeating a comment Rondeau made to a probation officer. "When will it be next worth it for Mr. Rondeau and what will he do?" the lawyer asked.

Ostapiw argued Rondeau's criminal history took leniency off the table but that didn't mean Chartier should considerably hike his sentence from an accepted four- to five-year range.

"I agree that the gravity of the offence is high — it's not the highest," she said.

She said Rondeau was accurate in telling the probation officer he felt the 10-year Crown request was harsh given other people do worse things and get lesser terms.

Ostapiw pointed to how in provincial court on Tuesday, a manslaughter case of a man who fatally stabbed his brother at a Thanksgiving get-together netted a four-year sentence.

The fact Rondeau took his case to trial can't be held against him, she told Chartier.

Chartier will give his decision next Tuesday.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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