Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sexual deviant handed lengthy prison term

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HE is described as a dangerous sexual deviant who preys upon naive, vulnerable Winnipeg women.

Now, Russell Bruce Cassels is headed to prison for 101/2 years after admitting to attacks involving five victims.

Cassels, 32, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to 11 charges including multiple counts of sexual assault and voyeurism.

"He has caused significant and lasting damage to these victims and their families," said provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe. "Many of the offences here are horrific."

Cassels was first arrested in late 2009 after getting caught trying to spy on a woman at a tanning salon in Winnipeg Square.

The young woman had just undressed when she spotted the stranger in the room. She screamed, causing Cassels to attempt to flee on a bicycle.

That incident opened up the floodgates as other victims were quickly identified.

A subsequent police investigation found Cassels had been peeping 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 other 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 Thursday. "He initially charmed his victims and earned their trust."

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 on Thursday 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.

Crown prosecutor Sharil Thomas had been seeking a 10-year prison sentence, while defence lawyer Mike Cook requested six years.

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 behaviour could be linked to that incident.

Cook said his client will likely appeal Wiebe's sentence.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 B1

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