Edmonton woman who harassed triathlon coach sentenced to year in jail

A woman who anonymously harassed her triathlon coach for months will be jailed for a year, an Edmonton judge ruled Monday.

The woman was ordered to report to jail on Jan. 3

An Edmonton woman will be jailed for one year after pleading guilty to harassing a man who she met through the fitness community. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

A woman who anonymously harassed her triathlon coach for months will be sent to jail for a year, an Edmonton judge ruled Monday.

Amanda Mae Wowk was sentenced to nine months for criminal harassment and three months for fraudulent personation.

Upon release, she will be on probation for two years. She was also ordered to pay her victim $1,475 in restitution, which will cover 50 per cent of the cost of counselling the man sought following the harassment. 

The victim and his family cannot be named because of a court ordered publication ban on their identities.

Wowk, 23, met the victim and his wife through their fitness community, and the man agreed to help train her for a triathlon. Eventually, she became a "close and trusted young friend," even house sitting for the couple when they went on vacation, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Stephen Hillier said in the written reasons for his decision. 

The harassing phone calls began in spring 2016, and harassing emails soon followed. The victim went to the police in late 2016, according to an agreed statement of facts. In an interview with police following her arrest, Wowk admitted that she was behind the barrage of calls, voicemails and emails that accused her target of being unfaithful to his wife, and telling his wife to divorce him. She sent a number of emails to the man's family, friends and business contacts.

The emails made "offensive and vulgar" comments about the victim's character, according to Hillier's summary of the agreed facts. 

Wowk also involved herself in the police investigation, and tried to derail it, claiming alternately to be the victim or his wife in emails to detectives, and later creating a fake email account to impersonate a detective to send threatening messages to the victim to encourage him to "cancel" the investigation. She also contacted police as herself, to share fabricated information about the victim with a detective.

'Less than compelling'

Hillier declined to order Wowk to pay the man restitution for income losses the prosecution had argued were a result of the campaign of harassment.

Wowk stood while Hillier told her that the suspended sentence and probation term her lawyer had argued for would be "inappropriate." The Crown had asked for a jail term of 15 to 18 months.

Hillier agreed that Wowk is a low risk to reoffend and does not pose a risk to the community, but he cited the "sophistication" of the harassment, and noted that a psychologist reported that Wowk sees little need for changes in her behaviour.

During a psychological assessment done by an expert hired by defence, Wowk told the psychologist that her actions were "the greatest mistake of my life."

Amanda Mae Wowk, 23, was sentenced to one year in jail for harassment and fraudulent personation. (Amanda Wowk/Twitter)

"I never had any negative ill will that I wanted to destroy them. I just wish at that point in my life I was as centred as I am now. It's like looking back at a different person," she told the psychologist, who was hired by the defence to complete the assessment.

Hillier noted that was as close as Wowk has come to apologizing in the years since the offence.

"Given the opportunity to convey concerns of accountability to a specialist retained by her own counsel, I find the measure of Ms. Wowk's accountability to be less than compelling," the judge wrote. 

He noted that while a lack of remorse for committing a crime is not an aggravating factor, it is relevant for determining a fair and fit sentence.

'Very happy'

Surrounded by supporters, the victim and his wife were congratulated after the sentencing hearing wrapped up.

"We're very happy. We've been supported by a lot of good people," he said, adding that he's relieved the case is finally over. 

Hillier ordered Wowk to report to the Edmonton Remand Centre on Jan. 3, 2020. He said he would delay the beginning of her sentence so she could finish her exams for the term, and so she could spend time with family over the holidays. In his written reasons for sentencing, he noted Wowk is a business administration student at NAIT who hopes to pursue a masters of business administration.

When she is released, Wowk will be subject to a 10-year weapons prohibition, and will have to follow several probation conditions, including undergoing an updated psychological assessment and then undergo any subsequent counselling or treatment directed by her probation officer.

About the Author

Paige Parsons is an Edmonton-based reporter and web editor. She can be reached at paige.parsons@cbc.ca.