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Conditional sentence sought in controversial rape case

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Justice officials are seeking a four-year prison term for the man at the centre of a controversial rape case.

Kenneth Rhodes, 43, was convicted earlier this year of a 2006 sexual assault on a young woman in Thompson. He returned to court Tuesday for sentencing.

Rhodes has requested a conditional sentence which allows him to remain free in the community. Queen’s Bench Justice Lori Spivak has reserved her decision until later this fall.

Rhodes had pleaded not guilty to the attack — which involved forced anal, vaginal and digital intercourse in a wooded area outside Thompson — while claiming sex with the 20-year-old woman was consensual. Spivak rejected his version of events in her ruling, saying he wasn’t credible.

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

Dewar called Rhodes a "clumsy Don Juan" who may have misunderstood what the victim wanted. He noted the victim wore a tube top, high heels and plenty of makeup that night 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 in the future.

The Canadian Judicial Council, which has authority over more than 1,100 federally appointed judges, received "several" complaints about Dewar’s handling of the case 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 normal duties.

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

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

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