Graham James released from jail

Former hockey coach Graham James, who is facing sex-related charges in Manitoba, has been released on bail and allowed to live in Montreal.

Crown may appeal bail ruling

Former hockey coach Graham James, who is facing sex-related charges in Manitoba, has been released on bail and allowed to live in Montreal.

James, 58, was to have had his bail conditions made final in a Winnipeg court Monday, but documents indicate that a justice of the peace actually signed off on his release late Friday afternoon.

There are 11 conditions on his freedom, including that he must report to police in Montreal once a week, that he not leave the country, and that he not be alone with anyone under 18.

James asked for permission to live in Montreal, which was granted as part of his bail. He must not change his address without approval from court.

He faces nine charges stemming from alleged encounters between 1979 and 1994 involving three boys, one of them Theoren Fleury, who went on to become a National Hockey League star.

Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack granted James bail on Dec. 8, but James was ordered to remain in custody until his bail conditions were established.

The judge said he first wanted to hear from the Crown and the defence, and both sides were expected to deliver their submissions Friday. The date for the bail hearing was then set for Monday. For some reason, however, the decision took place Friday.

Appeal possible

Fleury said on Monday that he wasn't surprised James had been released quietly, with no public notice.

"He got a pardon and we didn't know about it — I guess it's par for the course," said Fleury, referring to the decision in 2007 to grant James a pardon on three earlier sex assault convictions involving young players he coached.

However, Crown attorney Colleen McDuff, who had originally opposed granting James bail, said there was no intent to avoid scrutiny with the Friday release.

"People seem to be under the impression that somehow this was all done clandestinely and nobody wanted (anyone) to know he was being released, and that's not the case at all," she said Monday. "This is just how the nature of his release played out."

McDuff said most of the conditions had been fixed in court last week, and there were only a few details to be worked out, such as the address where he would be reporting to police in Montreal.

"It was just fill in the blanks."

McDuff said she has ordered transcripts of the bail hearing and will look for a possible legal error that could lead to an appeal of James's bail.

"There's no question from the outset, [the] prosecution's position was that we would be opposing Mr. James's release," she said. "And we are still in a position of reviewing transcripts of the proceeding to determine whether or not we appeal Judge Pollack's decision and potentially file a bail review."

Arrested in October

James had been in custody since Oct. 27, when officers of the Winnipeg Police Service met him at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Graham James, seen in Mexico after being tracked down by CBC News, is facing nine sex-related charges over a 15-year period, from 1979 until the mid-1990s. ((CBC))
He was then escorted to Winnipeg, where he was arrested.

James is facing nine sex-related charges over a 15-year period, from 1979 until the mid-1990s.

The charges relate to complaints of sexual exploitation, sexual assault and gross indecency involving three boys.

One of the three named complainants is Fleury, now 42, who was recruited at age 13 by James. As a result, Fleury moved from Russell, Man., to play junior hockey in Winnipeg.

The other two complainants James is accused of assaulting can't be named because of a publication ban.

Previous jail sentence

James already served almost two years in jail in the late 1990s for assaulting three young hockey players, including Sheldon Kennedy, who also played in the NHL.

James pleaded guilty to those sexual assault charges in 1997 and served about two years of his sentence before being released. He was pardoned by the National Parole Board three years ago and moved to Mexico.

He returned to Canada after Winnipeg police issued a warrant on the new charges in October.

The events in the latest charges are alleged to have occurred in Winnipeg as well as Swift Current, Sask., and Moose Jaw, Sask.

Fleury ignited the charges by going to police in Winnipeg in January and filing a criminal complaint. Police launched an investigation that led to the two additional complainants coming forward.

With files from The Canadian Press