On Tuesday, the 60-year old James was sentenced in a Manitoba provincial court to two years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two players he coached — former NHLer Theo Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt. The sentence is concurrent.
"There is no sentence this court can impose which the victims and indeed the public will find satisfactory," Judge Catherine Carlson told the court before she delivered her sentence.
Afterwards, Holt expressed his disappointment in a statement:
This sentence today is nothing short of a national travesty because we know that childhood sexual abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country. Graham James once again perpetrated his crime and spread his sickness right through the courts of Canada. He conned the judge with his "poor me" and "I regret" statements. His lawyer defended the indefensible, and he's been rewarded for doing so and Graham James is laughing all the way back to the life he's always led knowing that justice for him is but a blip on the radar.
You can read the full joint-statement from Holt and Fleury here.
James was also ordered to not have any contact with the two victims, supply a DNA sample for the national offender registry and is banned for life from working in a position dealing with children.
This is the third sentence of sexual abuse for James. The Crown (government prosecutor) was looking for a six-year term, while James' defense argued for a conditional sentence of 18 months.
In 1997, the disgraced former junior hockey coach pleaded guilty to assaulting two former players, including former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison before being paroled in 2001. After given a lifetime ban from the Canadian Hockey Association, James exiled to Mexico where it wasn't long before he was back in the news.
When Fleury released his autobiography, "Playing With Fire" in the fall of 2009, the former NHLer alleged he was also a target of sexual abuse from James when he was a minor player with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 1980s. The allegations in the book once again put James' past in the spotlight. In January of 2010, Fleury filed a criminal complaint against James and through a CBC and Globe and Mail joint-report, James was found living in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Fleury attended the news conference with Holt and was not present at James' sentencing telling the AP recently, "The case was closed for me a long time ago. I have moved on with my life. I'm not interested in going backwards. Why would I have to? Why would I need to?"
Continuing to move forward, but hearing the voices of the many outraged after the sentence was announced, Fleury urged his followers on Twitter to do one thing:
"If you are outraged by this verdict and I see you are. Never let this conversation die. Keep elevating till change is made."
Check out Buzzing the Net's Neate Sager's take on the sentence.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
- Graham James
- Theo Fleury