Judge's son defends jailing of Edmonton sex assault victim

The son of a provincial court judge who made a controversial decision to jail a sex assault victim has publicly defended his father in a Facebook post that has since been deleted.

'The suggestion that she could spend the weekend with her mother was not an attractive one' — Sean Bodnarek

Sean Bodnarek, the son of Alberta provincial court judge Ray Bodnarek, has publicly defended his father in a Facebook post. (Facebook)

Alberta provincial court Judge Ray Bodnarek's son Sean, a law student and former judicial clerk in Edmonton, has defended his father in a Facebook post about the controversy over how a sexual assault victim was treated.

The post was up for only 24 hours before it was removed Wednesday evening after CBC News asked for comment from him and his father. Originally, Sean Bodnarek made the post public and asked others to share it. 

In the now-deleted post, he wrote, "I feel like I must comment on this because it is in defence of my father, who is in short the best person I know. He deserves the title of Honorable as much as any judge in the country. He is being portrayed as a villain and a racist."
Alberta provincial court Judge Ray Bodnarek in a photo posted on Facebook in December 2013. (Facebook)

In June 2015, Judge Bodnarek ordered sex assault victim Angela Cardinal (a pseudonym) into custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

The request to issue the order was made by Crown prosecutor Patricia Innes after Cardinal was having difficulty staying awake and focused during her first day on the witness stand at Lance Blanchard's preliminary hearing.

A decision later issued by Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin questioned the jurisdiction of the lower court judge to incarcerate Cardinal.

Many others have criticized Bodnarek and Innes for the decisions they made. Alberta's justice minister has ordered a full investigation of the incident.

Facebook post from Sean Bodnarek's account as of Wednesday June 7, 2017. (CBC)

Victim's alleged drug use

The judge's son suggested his father ordered incarceration to deal with Cardinal's drug addiction after "many, many attempts to procure testimony from her.

"She was hysterical rocking back and forth in the fetal position," Sean wrote. "One has sympathy for her since she was in the death grip of methamphetamine withdrawal."

Convicted sex offender Lance Blanchard faces possible designation as a dangerous offender. (Edmonton Police Service)

The law student continued with claims that are found nowhere in the transcript of the preliminary hearing. It's unclear what the source of his information was, since it was not in the public record.

He claimed: "The crown had put her up in a hotel the night before the hearing and she abused methamphetamines the entire night before the trial." 

Bodnarek then shared what appeared to be his father's thought process at the time. 

"The suggestion that she could spend the weekend with her mother was not an attractive one to my father…. It was all but certain that she would abuse methamphetamine the entire time and would again be in no condition to provide reliable testimony."

Sean said his father's decision to remand Cardinal was motivated by the desire for her to "detox over the weekend in a safe setting." 

The transcript from the preliminary hearing showed the judge somewhat reluctantly ordered Cardinal into custody the first time, because she appeared to be unable to answer questions.

The judge was told by the prosecutor and others they did not know why she was so upset and sleepy.

In a later written decision, Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin wrote, "Even though she acknowledged having used crack cocaine for some of the period prior to June 2015, she said she stopped about two and one-half weeks prior to her testimony at the preliminary inquiry. There is no credible evidence to the contrary."

Judge's son blames guards

Sean characterized Cardinal's treatment while in custody as "disgraceful," referring to her being held in shackles and being forced into close proximity with the man who attacked her.

But, he insisted, "this had nothing to do with my father. My father does not share any blame for this."

He wrote: "The monumental incompetence, insensitivity and stupidity of the sheriffs and remand guards are wholly to blame for her mistreatment."

During the preliminary hearing, Judge Bodnarek was told about Cardinal being put into the same prisoner transport van with the man who attacked her. The preliminary transcript showed he said, "I want it clear on the endorsement that they are not transported together."

Angela Cardinal was ordered into custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre for five nights while she testified at her attacker's preliminary hearing. (Edmonton Police Service)

The judge also directed a no-contact order between Blanchard and Cardinal. 

He also said, "I'm not sure what else we can do, other than just to make sure that the individuals involved in the handling and transport are aware of the necessity to keep her and Mr. Blanchard separate and apart."

Son rejects suggestions of racism

In his lengthy Facebook post, Sean also defended his father as "the farthest thing from a racist who sympathizes deeply with the most vulnerable in society." 

Others have suggested Cardinal never would have been incarcerated if she was non-Indigenous.

Sean rejected that suggestion.

"I guarantee my father would have arrived at the same determination if Angela was white, black, aboriginal or any other colour," he wrote.

Judge Bodnarek declined comment on his son's Facebook post, as did Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley.

Calls made to Sean Bodnarek were not returned.
The judge was told Cardinal was placed in the same prisoner transport van as her attacker. He issued an order to make sure that mistake was not repeated. (Sam Martin/CBC News )


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.