'Damaged' woman who sexually abused child advertised on Craigslist says she's 'worth saving'

A Waterloo woman who pled guilty in June to sex abuse charges, was back in a Hamilton courtroom Monday where defence and Crown argued over an appropriate sentence for the offences.

'I don't think she's Karla Holmolka': says lawyer for woman who plead guilty to abuse charges

Members from Guardians of the Children were at a Hamilton courthouse Monday to show their support for victim and her family. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The woman guilty of participating in the sexual abuse of a seven-year-old girl made available for sex on Craigslist says she's "worth saving." 

Sonya Lucas pled guilty in June and was back in a Hamilton courtroom Monday for a sentencing hearing. While her defence argued any sentence had to take into account she is a "damaged individual," because of abuse she herself suffered, the Crown said that shouldn't be a factor in the punishment.

The Waterloo woman is expected to be sentenced later this month. 

Justice Anthony Leitch said Monday "the offence is a grave one." 

Leitch was hoping to sentence Lucas Monday, but is holding off to review submissions made in court and in particular, facts involved in the sentencing of the man who hired her to perform acts she pled guilty to. 

Lucas pled guilty to possession of child pornography, sexual interference with a child under the age of 16 and sexual assault on a child under the age of 16.

Lucas's lawyer, Hal Mattson is arguing for a five to six year sentence, minus the time spent in jail.

Lucas has been in jail since August 2016.

My niece has been robbed of her innocence.- Victim's aunt

"Her background situation is very empathetic and as a result of that I'm suggesting there be a lighter sentence," said Mattson.

"It's a sentence for this type of crime that requires a lot of time," said Mattson. He said Lucas was "broken" at the same age as the victim in this case.

The Crown is asking for 10 years.

"She was a very damaged individual from a young age and those type of things go on forever. I think she's a great candidate for rehabilitation. I don't think she's Karla Holmolka," said Mattson. 

Assistant Crown attorney Janet Booey said she recognized the "horrific" upbringing of Lucas, but that it's not a mitigating factor for someone to abuse another child. 

Booy read an impact victim statement from the victim's aunt.

"My niece has been robbed of her innocence. It makes me angry to know that someone on purpose, would make arrangements to hurt a child."

In a previous court appearance Lucas said she filmed the seven-year-old girl being abused because she was told to by the man who hired her. He received a sentence of eight years for his involvement in the abuse. 

On Monday, Lucas read a statement, apologizing to the victim and to her own family.

"I deeply regret not doing something to help her instead," said Lucas about the part she played. "I know I am not a monster and I believe I am worth saving." 

Delayed sentencing 

Lucas said she did not know she was walking into a situation where a minor would be abused and where one of the two men involved would ask her to film and perform sexual acts on the victim.

Sentencing was delayed in September because the crown and the defence could not agree on details around Lucas's participation.

There was then what is known as a 'Gardiner hearing,' which occurs during the sentencing phase of a trial as a way to resolve disputes over facts.

 Lucas testified as part of the hearing.

When asked by Booy Nov. 14 why she complied instead of leaving, she said she was "scared and cowardly."

The Crown argued that Lucas was "completely, willfully blind," given she had known child pornography was involved during her previous sexual encounters with the man who brought her to the residence where the abuse happened.

Lucas also did not phone the police or CrimeStoppers at any point after that day last year.

Lucas admitted to accepting $100.00 on the way home from where the victim was abused.

A photo of the electronics seized in Project Links, which have helped lead police to 9 arrests relating to the multiple assaults of a 7 year-old girl. (Hamilton Police Service)

Last November, Hamilton police laid dozens of charges linked to a child sexual exploitation ring that involved a seven-year-old girl being made available online for sexual abuse and being used for the creation of child pornography.

Police said that the girl was being abused by her mother's boyfriend, who also made the girl available on the online advertising service, Craigslist.

Lucas has a prior conviction from 2004 and is a registered sex offender.

The investigation dubbed "Project Links" took place of six months and involved the Ontario Provincial Police, Niagara Regional Police, Chatham-Kent Police Service and U.S. authorities.

The investigation began with information forwarded to police by the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

Search warrants were executed in May 2016 at a home where electronic devices were seized. Investigators quickly realized they were dealing with a network of people connected in arranging sexual abuse and distributing child pornography.