I hope I never meet another person like David James Leblanc. More importantly, I hope there aren't that many more people like him out there. I'm not so naive as to believe he's one of a kind. After all, he had an accomplice and a third man stands accused of similar crimes. But one David James Leblanc is more than enough.
I vividly remember the first time I saw Leblanc. It was February, 2011. Halifax police had issued a news release about the arrest of a Dartmouth man on charges of making and distributing child pornography. Sadly, child porn charges are not that uncommon. Actually making child porn, however, is unusual and represents an escalation above the run-of-the-mill. Our assignment editor decided it was worth a first-hand look. That was a particularly prescient assignment, because it offered us the first chance to get Leblanc on video and the only chance to videotape his partner in crime, Wayne Cunningham.
Leblanc was wandering around the Dartmouth courthouse that day because he didn't have a lawyer, and he needed to sign some papers before he could be released from jail.
Cunningham was circling him like a pilot fish circles a shark; at times acting as though he was trying to shield Leblanc, at other times, trying to hide from our camera himself. There is one moment when Cunningham scowls directly into the lens before walking by.
Leblanc eventually signed the papers and was free to go. Monday morning quarterbacks have questioned why Leblanc was freed at all. They're looking at it in the context of what he and Cunningham would do 19 months later.
On that day in Dartmouth court, Leblanc had only a handful of prior convictions for things like property crimes. There was no suggestion in his past behaviour of the crimes he would commit and so no good reason to keep him in jail. As for the case dragging on long after the charges were first laid, Leblanc joins a large and growing group of people who bounce through our provincial courts like ping pong balls; advancing by slow, tiny increments.
I could never tell watching Leblanc through his many court dates whether he was as feeble as he appeared, or if it was an act. We were told that he got frostbite while on the run from police in northern Ontario. He would alternate between shuffling into court under his own power, or being pushed in a wheelchair.
Either way, he would sit hunched over, his hands clenched in front of him like a praying mantis. His grey palour and thinning grey hair made him look at least 20 years older than his age, which is 48.
Watching him, I was reminded of nature movies that describe predators. There are those that are large and aggressive and hunt their prey. Then there are those that appear frail and harmless and vulnerable and lure their prey in to trap them.
Leblanc appears to be the passive kind of predator. That was confirmed by the agreed statement of facts read into the record at his sentencing.
Leblanc offered his teenage victim a job, then a drink. The job promise was a ruse, the drink was probably drugged. And there began days of torture and degradation no one should experience. His wrists chained to the ceiling of a cabin, his ankles secured by chains bolted to the floor, the boy endured days of rape and abuse at the hands of Leblanc and Cunningham.
How did Leblanc react when these facts were put on the record? He didn't. He sat passively, staring straight ahead. When the boy's mother read victim impact statements for herself and her son, Leblanc stared straight at her, occasionally tilting his head back and looking at the ceiling of the courtroom. His expression remained blank: no sign of guilt or remorse or even discomfort. When given a chance to speak, he declined. The only time he spoke during all his court appearances was to offer monosyllabic answers to questions posed by the judge.
The Crown says he's still exploring the possibility of trying to have Leblanc declared a Dangerous Offender, which would mean he'd be locked up indefinitely. As it stands now, he's sentenced to 11 years. But with credit for time served, that's closer to ten years; meaning Leblanc should be eligible to start applying for parole in about three years.
Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 30 years in Atlantic Canada, covering everything from princes to politicians to prostitutes, and a whole lot of stuff in between. These days, he focusses on stories involving crime and public safety.