A 47-year-old former Winnipeg elementary school caretaker has been given a year in jail for a series of sexually-explicit Facebook chats with a 13-year-old girl.
David Harder admitted Thursday to the rare charge of Internet luring against the teen, who was a former student. He was seeking a conditional sentence which would have allowed him to remain free in the community.
But provincial court Judge Brent Stewart said actual custody was needed for such a disturbing act of "verbal debauchery." He noted Harder knew exactly how young the victim was, unlike other cases which come before the courts where there may be some doubt.
"This type of nonsense has to stop," said Stewart.
A selection of the graphic online conversations were read into the court record. During them, Harder repeatedly tells the girl he’s in love with her, describes various sexual things he’d like to do with her and even counsels her about getting on birth control.
"The general public… would be absolutely disgusted," Stewart said of the chats, which occurred between January and March 2011.
The victim’s mother discovered the graphic conversations when the girl left her laptop open one afternoon, court was told. She immediately began typing Harder, who pleaded with her for mercy.
"What could remedy this?" Harder asked the woman.
"I am shaking right now and livid. It’s too late for this," she replies. Her husband was notified, and he immediately went to Harder’s school and confronted officials about what happened, then notified police.
Harder immediately resigned from the job he’d held since 2005.
Defence lawyer Leonard Tailleur told court Harder was dealing with a number of issues at the time of the incidents and is both embarrassed and remorseful.
"There’s a huge amount of shame," he said.
Harder was a victim of childhood sexual assault and was addicted to both alcohol and prescription pills as he tried to mask his depression, court was told. He has no prior criminal record and has been deemed a low risk to re-offend.
Stewart questioned what would have happened if the victim’s mother hadn’t stumbled across what was happening.
"The child may have been abused in a more physical way," he said.
Harder was also placed on three years of supervised probation which includes addictions counselling and treatment. His name will also be placed on the national sex offender registry for the next decade.