A disgraced Canadian hockey coach whose victims included at least two former professionals in the NHL apologized in court today for his actions.
Graham James awaits sentencing in a second sexual abuse trial, this time involving former NHL star Theo Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, another accomplished minor-league pro.
“I wanted the best for you, but did not give you my best,” James said, according to CBC. “For my behavior, I am deeply sorry. I was wrong.”
A judge is to pass sentence later. James has already served time for abusing another former NHL pro, Sheldon Kennedy. Fleury, who won both a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal, said there is no hope of rehabilitating James.
“This court must know that pedophiles like Graham James never change,” he said, the Globe and Mail reported. “Do not show leniency on Graham James. He certainly never did to me or any of his other prey.”
Crown prosecutor Colleen McDuff asked for a six-year sentence, but the defense said James has co-operated with police and completed treatment in prison. James received a university degree in jail and now works for a computer company in Montreal. He told councillors of the pressure he faced being gay in hockey's macho culture, and how he felt alone and vulnerable.
James coached boys ages 16 to 21 in the Western Hockey League between 1984 and 1996, winning numerous championships. His past came into the spotlight when Kennedy came forward and accused James of repeated abuse.
In 1997, James pled guilty to 350 counts of sexual abuse against Kennedy and an unnamed player. He served 18 months of a 3 ½-year sentence before being released, applying for and receiving a pardon. CBC News found him living in Mexico.
When news of his pardon hit Canadian media, Fleury and Holt brought new charges forward and James, now 60, was arrested last year.
Fleury wasn’t in court, but wrote a victim impact statement that was read into court records.
“I was just a kid,” Fleury’s statement said. “I was completely under Graham James’s control, and I was scared. I did not have the emotional skills, the knowledge, or the ability to stop the rapes or change my circumstances. I felt lost, alone, and helpless.”
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