Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Role model guilty of sexual assaults

Had claimed accusers fabricated stories

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A Winnipeg man touted as a Canadian role model for aboriginal youth has been convicted of sexually assaulting two vulnerable teen boys.

Thomas Edwards, 30, fought back tears Wednesday after learning his fate. He will be sentenced later this year and remains free on bail.

Edwards had denied any wrongdoing and claimed the two young victims had created a bogus story against him. But Queen's Bench Justice Colleen Suche said it was clearly Edwards who was lying.

"I found the accused to be totally lacking in credibility," said Suche.

The two victims were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time of the separate offences, which occurred between 2003 and 2007. They were fondled and molested under the guise of Edwards performing a "healing or cleansing" ceremony on them inside his Winnipeg home, court was told.

"These were deliberate fabrications," said Suche. "I don't believe the accused's testimony that he didn't commit the assaults."

Suche credited the two victims for coming forward with their story and providing evidence in a believable manner. She said they were "trusting and naive" and taken advantage of by the much more sophisticated Edwards, who convinced them the sexual acts were part of the traditional cultural process.

Edwards had met the boys through his younger brother and developed a friendship with them, court was told.

Edwards gained prominence several years ago as one of the key members of the National Aboriginal Role Model program. Its website lists him as an aspiring actor and public speaker who was dedicated to helping enrich the lives of young people within his community.

"I hope to one day achieve my personal dreams and make dreams of all youth happen." Thomas is quoted as saying on the website.

Crown attorney Jennifer Mann asked for Edwards to be taken into custody on Wednesday, saying they will be seeking a jail term for him despite the fact he has no prior record.

"These incidents were really predatory in nature," said Mann.

Suche ruled Edwards could remain free on bail pending the completion of a court-ordered report into his aboriginal upbringing, which may impact his eventual sentence.

Last accused in hazing

at SJR pleads guilty

THE final legal chapter has been written on a series of sexually explicit "hazing" incidents at a prestigious Winnipeg private school.

A 21-year-old Winnipeg man is the last of four accused to plead guilty to his role in the 2009 attacks at St. John's-Ravenscourt School. The accused, who was 17 at the time and can't be named, admitted Tuesday to six charges of assault with a weapon. He will be sentenced at a later date and remains free on bail.

Three other younger teens previously admitted to the same charges and were given probation under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The Crown dropped numerous other charges against the four accused, including multiple counts of sexual assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats.

Sources told the Free Press at least some of the alleged victims have since left the school or the country, which resulted in some of the charges not being pursued.

Police identified at least 12 students at SJR who were abused between September and December 2009, court previously heard. The four accused admitted to attacking six of them with a wooden walking stick, which was "pressed against their buttocks and anal area."


No freedom for killing

HIV-positive boyfriend

A Winnipeg man who beat his boyfriend to death with a golf club after learning the victim was HIV-positive has lost his bid to remain free.

Michael Pearce, 43, walked into court Wednesday hoping to be given a sentence of time already served in custody. He left in handcuffs after receiving 51/2 more years in addition to the 18 months he previously spent behind bars before being granted bail.

Pearce was convicted of manslaughter earlier this year following a jury trial. The Crown was seeking a total of 12 years for what they called a horrific attack much closer to murder given the violence involved.

Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg gave Pearce a sentence of seven years on paper.

Stuart Mark, 36, was found bludgeoned to death inside his Alfred Avenue home in January 2007. He had been struck at least 58 times with the weapon, court was told.

"Stuart was very special... kind-hearted, trusting, generous, friendly and an optimist," his mother, Gemma Ring, told court earlier this year in a victim impact statement. "My son was taken from me much too soon and I miss him with all my heart."


-- Mike McIntyre

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2012 B3

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