July 14, 2020

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Psychologists paint different pictures of sexual predator Graham James

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/3/2012 (3055 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Graham James exited the Law Courts in Winnipeg last week dressed in a parka with his face covered by a scarf. James stood in a courtroom Wednesday and apologized for the sexual abuse that shattered the trust of the hockey world and the lives of some of its most promising players.


Graham James exited the Law Courts in Winnipeg last week dressed in a parka with his face covered by a scarf. James stood in a courtroom Wednesday and apologized for the sexual abuse that shattered the trust of the hockey world and the lives of some of its most promising players.

Sexual predator Graham James has done everything possible to protect his privacy and shield himself from scrutiny — from fleeing the country upon his release from prison to covering his face from cameras outside court.

But the former junior hockey coach seemingly held nothing back in a conversation with a medical specialist. The expert forensic report was tendered at James’ sentencing hearing last week for provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson to consider.

Graham James in 1995


Graham James in 1995

The Free Press was able to review the document, along with several other sentencing materials which were presented to the court and provide rare insight into James.

The Crown is seeking a six-year prison sentence for James, who has pleaded guilty to hundreds of sexual attacks against former players Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt between 1983 and 1994. James is seeking a 12-to-18 month conditional sentence, which would allow him to remain free in the community. Carlson will give her decision March 20.

A meeting between James, 59, and a forensic psychologist in Montreal was arranged by his lawyers last September. He revealed plenty about his criminal past and his uncertain future, including why he found himself attracted to the young hockey players he coached.

"In the boys he abused, he admired their youth, their athletic beauty, their strength. They were bold, funny, intelligent," the doctor’s report said. A court-ordered ban prevents the Free Press from naming individuals who were consulted about the James case, including the specialist.

"Mr. James felt that he was in love with the boys. He was very aware that they were not gay. It was an emotional thing, and, long after they refused his approaches, their friendships remained dear to him," the doctor wrote.

James described being born in Prince Edward Island as the oldest of four children and being raised by a "loving and close knit family." They moved frequently across the country; his father was in the Canadian military. James said he had a normal childhood, which included participation in plenty of sports, although his level of achievement was often curtailed by his asthma.

"He describes his teen years as quiet because he was not interested in partying at all," the doctor wrote. "He became aware of this difference. He understood that, unlike his companions, he was neither interested in drinking or in girls. For these reasons, even if he was extremely active in sports, he was not comfortable on this social level."

James also began to realize he had an attraction for males, something he struggled with.

"He became aware that society has a very negative view on homosexuality and he consequently did everything he could to hide his orientation, even though he was not acting on it yet. He was very naive, even sexually, and did not even start masturbating before the age of 17 or 18," the doctor wrote.

James completed high school and started taking arts in university, only to drop out when he got a chance to coach hockey in Winnipeg at age 19. He quickly shot through the ranks of Canadian junior hockey, eventually taking the helm of the Moose Jaw Warriors and then the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.

"Mr. James, all these years, remained in the closet as far as his sexual orientation was concerned. He stresses the fact he did not go into coaching to have access to young people but he did definitely enjoy the company of these young athletic boys," the doctor wrote. "He started gradually approaching them physically. He became emotionally attached to one, and then to another, very rarely two at the same time. Even at the end of an eventual sexualization of a relationship, Mr. James remained friends with most of them, often for many years."

Former hockey players Todd Holt and Sheldon Kennedy embrace outside the Law Courts following Graham James’ sentencing hearing in Winnipeg on Feb. 22.


Former hockey players Todd Holt and Sheldon Kennedy embrace outside the Law Courts following Graham James’ sentencing hearing in Winnipeg on Feb. 22.

James was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty in 1997 to sexual assaults against three former players, including former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy. The crimes against Fleury and Holt occurred in the same time frame as the others, but weren’t disclosed by the victims until 2009.

"Mr. James believed at the time his approaches toward the young hockey players on his team were not, in his eyes, an abuse of power. On the contrary, he felt feeble and powerless and dependent on their benevolence to have some type of an emotional or sexual life. Mr. James says that before his therapies, he never realized that he created an unsafe environment for the boys that were sent to his team by their parents," the doctor wrote.

James moved to Spain shortly after his release from prison, which the doctor said was an attempt to "expatriate" himself and become less recognized. He returned to Montreal in 2003 and found employment as a salesperson for a technology company. He still holds that job.

In 2008, James was transferred to Mexico to become the company’s representative for Latin America. He remained there until he turned himself in to police in late 2010 on the sex charges currently before the court.

James says he’s never touched alcohol or drugs in his life, nor was he ever physically or sexually abused.

"Mr. James describes himself as a man with a social conscience. He dislikes inequality in every form. He is rather an introvert even if he can deal with people. He believes he is thoughtful, kind and generous. Mr. James tells us that in the past he justified his actions to himself too easily but he has understood that he has hurt a lot of people," the doctor wrote.

Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg told court last week James was a "champion" for several important issues in junior hockey, including the elimination of bullying and alcohol abuse among players. He accused the media and the public of going on a "witch hunt" against his client.

"Mr. James stands before you today as possibly the most hated man in Canada, certainly the most hated man in hockey," Roitenberg said. "He has become the bogeyman."

James admits he still has an attraction for young men between the ages of 15 and 25 — a fact the Crown told court last week makes him an ongoing risk to the public. He said his passions still include sports, along with writing, reading and studying European and Latin American culture.

The Crown submitted its own forensic report last week, written by a psychologist who was not granted personal access to James. Instead, he studied various court transcripts, victim impact statements, police reports and talked to several prominent people in the hockey community who had previous dealings with James.

His conclusion: James still has "hebephilia", which is defined as a sexual interest in pubescent males. He also has the "associated sexual deviance of partialism," which includes a specific interest in feet.

"The victims he targeted were boys who he perceived as being disadvantaged and would step into a parental role," the Crown’s expert concluded. "At the same times, James groomed their parents by using a career in professional hockey as a reasonable outcome if he could relocate them from their home town under the guise of hockey development. Mr. James reminded his victims that a simple action, on his part, would end their prospects of a career in professional hockey — a dream of most, if not all, his victims."

James has also compared himself in the past to historical figures that had male lovers, according to interviews with those who knew James.

"He believed that these figures were accepted by society and he was not," the doctor wrote. He assessed James as continuing to be a moderate to high-risk of re-offending.

"The most reliable predictor of future behaviour is past history," the report stated. "Mr. James will always pose a risk to adolescent boys because of his deeply ingrained erotic preference."


The Free Press will publish more details in Saturday's paper.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

Read full biography


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