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'Clumsy Don Juan' gets three years for sexual assault

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A man at the centre of a controversial Manitoba rape case has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Kenneth Rhodes, 43, was convicted earlier this year of a 2006 sexual assault on a young woman in Thompson. He returned to court Thursday to learn his fate. Rhodes had requested a conditional sentence that would allow him to remain free in the community.

But Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lori Spivak said only a prison sentence can condemn such a violent attack.

"The need for denunciation and deterrence is so pressing," said Spivak. "The impact upon (the victim) was traumatic and lasting."

Rhodes had pleaded not guilty to the attack, which involved forced anal, vaginal and digital intercourse in a wooded area outside Thompson, claiming sex with the 20-year-old woman was consensual. But Spivak said his version of events wasn't credible.

Rhodes first went on trial in 2011 and was also found guilty. But his sentencing hearing made national headlines after Justice Robert Dewar suggested the victim may have been partially to blame for what happened.

Dewar called Rhodes, a "clumsy Don Juan" who may have misunderstood the victim. He noted the victim wore a tube top, high heels and plenty of makeup and cited her flirtatious behaviour.

"Sex was in the air," Dewar said. Rhodes was given a conditional sentence after Dewar rejected the Crown's bid for a three-year prison term.

Dewar's comments immediately came under attack after they were reported in the Free Press. Politicians of all stripes joined student and feminist groups and those who work with sexual assault victims in decrying the comments. Many said they feared Dewar's remarks would deter other victims from coming forward.

The Canadian Judicial Council, which has authority over more than 1,100 federally appointed judges, received several complaints about Dewar and launched an investigation.

The council decided no formal discipline was required, calling Dewar's conduct an "isolated incident." It noted Dewar agreed his comments were "totally inappropriate" and he had apologized directly to the victim "for the hurt she must have experienced from my comments." He has also taken gender-equity counselling and has resumed his duties.

Both Rhodes and the Crown filed appeals. The Crown wanted the conditional sentence replaced with a prison term, while Rhodes wanted the conviction set aside.

The Appeal Court ordered a new trial, which was held in Thompson at the end of April and May.

www.mikeoncrime.com

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