A man who preyed upon five Winnipeg women has been sentenced to 10-1/2 years in prison.
Russell Bruce Cassels pleaded guilty to 11 total charges including multiple counts of sexual assault and voyeurism.
"He has caused significant and lasting damage to these victims and their families," provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe said today. "Many of the offences here are horrific."
Cassels, 32, was initially arrested in late 2009 for spying on a woman at a tanning salon in Winnipeg Square. The victim had just undressed when she spotted a stranger in the room. She screamed, causing Cassels to attempt to flee on a bicycle. He was quickly arrested.
A subsequent police investigation found Cassels had been spying on at least one other woman at night in the Osborne Village area, videotaping her through her windows as she undressed. Officers found photographic evidence on his phone.
Three women later came forward, alleging that between June 2008 and February 2010, Cassels repeatedly forced them to have sex with him, beat them and photographed and videotaped them while they slept in the nude. All three women were involved in relationships with Cassels. One met him on Facebook, another through mutual friends, and the other at a local roller rink.
"He preyed upon young, innocent vulnerable women who were all virgins," Wiebe said today. "He initially charmed his victims and earned their trust."
In May, one of Cassels' former girlfriends appeared in court to read a victim impact statement, explaining how she fell in love with Cassels at the age of 19 but he brutalized her and destroyed her life.
"I feel my life was ruined," the woman told court. "I feel ugly, incredibly stupid and useless."
The woman said she contacted police after Cassels' initial arrest because she didn't want him to hurt any other women.
Wiebe told the woman today she was courageous for coming forward.
"What has happened to you is not your making. It is not your fault. All of you (victims) are very brave and strong," the judge said.
Cassels apologized to the woman during the hearing, explaining he has reconsidered his criminal ways and doesn't want to return to prison.
Cook said Cassels is a changed man after spending more than three years in custody, where he was attacked several times and sexually assaulted by another inmate. He said Cassels suffered a horrific brain injury more than a decade ago after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle. Cassels spent three months in a coma, and his behavior could be linked to that incident.
At the sentencing hearing in May, Crown prosecutor Sharil Thomas described the offences as "crimes of serious sexual deviance" and asked for a 10-year prison sentence, while defence lawyer Mike Cook requested six years.
Cook said his client will likely appeal Wiebe’s sentence.