Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Manitoba native leader pleads guilty to assault; sex-related charges dropped

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Several sex-related charges have been dropped against a prominent Manitoba aboriginal leader following his guilty plea to a lesser offence.

BillyJo DeLaRonde, 60, was arrested two years ago and hit with eight total charges involving sexual assault and threat allegations against an adult woman and a child. He appeared in court this week for the start of a preliminary hearing.

The Crown abruptly dropped all of the charges relating to the child, saying they were unable to prove their case.

DeLaRonde was ordered Thursday to stand trial on a single count of sexual assault with a weapon involving his former domestic partner, while other related charges were dismissed by the judge.

On Friday, DeLaRonde was back in court and pleaded guilty to a single charge of simple assault with the Crown agreeing to drop the sexual element. The Crown said the assault plea was in "full answer" to the allegations they could prove.

His lawyer, Lionel Chartrand, told the Free Press DeLaRonde admits shoving the woman down to the ground. He was given a conditional discharge, which means he will maintain a clean criminal record.

All of the charges stemmed from when DeLaRonde was chief of Pine Creek First Nation in 2008. Pine Creek First Nation is about 55 kilometres north of Dauphin.

"It caused a lot of pain and aggravation for me to be falsely accused," DeLaRonde told the Free Press outside court Friday.

DeLaRonde has held several prominent positions in aboriginal leadership. He was chief of Pine Creek First Nation from 2004 to 2008 -- a surprising election result as he wasn't a member of the community and not a status Indian. At the time he was living in Winnipeg and was the executive director of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre.

DeLaRonde had long been involved in Métis politics. He was president of the Manitoba Métis Federation Inc., from 1994 to 1997.

He also had been chairman of the Frontier School Division.

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