May 13, 2010
Graham James has been the most notorious name in hockey since former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy and an unnamed player revealed allegations of sexual impropriety by James while members of the coach's Winnipeg junior team between 1984 and 1990. Kennedy came forward in 1996, and James pled guilty to sexually assaulting the two 350 times and served 3 1/2 years in jail. He was banned from coaching in Canada and paroled in 2001. When it was discovered that James had surfaced two years later coaching in Spain, he was eventually fired from that job.
After that, James disappeared.
Last fall, Theo Fleury told his story in his autobiography, "Playing With Fire" and it came to light that he and Kennedy knew that James was abusing the other. In January, Fleury filed a criminal complaint against James in Winnipeg and since police began investigating the claim, three other former players have come forward with allegations. The questions about James' whereabouts grew as the police were still investigating.
Last month, CBC News received a tip about James with a Guadalajara, Mexico phone number. Teaming up with the Globe & Mail, James was tracked down to a one-bedroom apartment in the city of six million people. He is believed to be working from there for a Canadian-based Internet company.
Click on the photo to watch the CBC News piece
On his way to do laundry last week, James was confronted by the CBC's Bob McKeown requesting an interview with the disgraced former hockey coach, who looked thinner and noticeably gray under the baseball hat he was wearing.
"Not a chance," said James.
"I'm impressed that you found me. But not that I've been hiding."
How has James been able to live and work in Mexico without anyone knowing?
There's no registry in Mexico for those convicted of sexual abuse and because of the quiet pardon James was given in 2007, there was no way for authorities to know about his past. It's unknown how long James has been living in Mexico, but the CBC reported he goes by his middle name, Michael, these days.
James didn't answer McKeown's questions directly, but stuck around long enough to listen to each one, at times stopping before giving a canned answer politely describing his new life in Mexico. When asked about Fleury's criminal complaint, James would only say that a Winnipeg lawyer by the name of Evan Roitenberg represents him. The Globe & Mail reached Roitenberg, who said that James was not hiding in Mexico: "When individuals are of a certain profile, and they don't want to be in the public eye, they sometimes have to get out of the public eye. ... I think it's as simple as that."
The 2007 pardon of James was not publicly known until last month, news which led to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to urge Public Safety Minister Vic Toews for a change to the system. Fleury saw the pardon as an opportunity to put pressure on Canadian government officials for better protection for children from pedophiles. Tighter rules were proposed on Tuesday that would force those convicted of three or more serious crimes or those against minors to be ineligible for pardons.
If any new charges arise, Roitenberg said he would be ready to deal with them, and with there being an extradition treaty between Canada and Mexico, should Winnipeg authorities decide to arrest James, there won't be an issue should his appearance be needed in court.
UPDATE: James has been named a suspect for the first time by Winnipeg police in their investigation of the sexual assault claims made by Theo Fleury(notes).