Riders GM Tillman pleads guilty to sexual assault

Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman has pleaded guilty in Regina provincial court to sexual assault involving a teenage girl.

Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Eric Tillman pleaded guilty on Monday in Regina provincial court to sexual assault involving a teenage girl.

Tillman appeared in court and offered a tearful apology. The allegation, involving a 16-year-old babysitter, surfaced in August 2008. Tillman was charged in February last year.

The Roughriders issued a statement following the hearing saying the club and Tillman have agreed that he will no longer be involved in day-to-day operations of the CFL team.

The team's board of directors will hold a special meeting "as soon as reasonably possible" to decide Tillman's future with the team once the legal process has run its course.

Tillman had originally pleaded not guilty to the charge. But as the trial was to begin, he changed his plea to guilty, likely saving the complainant the need to testify.

Court was told Tillman came home from work in August 2008 having taken a double dose of sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. Some of his colleagues with the football club had described him as behaving "loopy" that day as a result of the medications.

His children, aged three and five, and the babysitter were at the home. As the babysitter bent over, court heard Tillman put his hands on her hips with his fingers in her belt loops and pulled her toward him.

The Crown said the action was clearly sexual in nature.

In court, Tillman described those 10 or 15 seconds as the beginning of a nightmare for everyone involved. He made a tearful apology to the community, to the young girl and her parents, to his wife and family and to the Roughriders and their many fans for his actions.

Prosecutors said they are not opposed to a discharge in the case. The girl and her parents have said they are not opposed to Tillman continuing his employment with the football club.

Tillman has been on paid administrative leave for the last CFL season but was involved with the team's day-to-day operations.

Following the plea, both Crown and defence lawyers began making sentencing arguments and the judge in the case said he will reconvene court Tuesday after considering both submissions.