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Crown calls for jail time for former girls' basketball coach in sexual assault of minor

Stephen Freake pleaded guilty earlier this year to a sex crime involving in minor. In N.W.T. Territorial Court Friday, a judge considered Freake's sentence.

Stephen Freake pleaded guilty in February to a sex crime involving a minor

Territorial Court Justice Donovan Molloy has reserved his decision in the sentencing of Stephen Freake, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a sexual assault crime involving a minor. (Walter Strong/CBC)

In N.W.T. Territorial Court on Friday, Stephen Freake — a former volunteer girls' basketball coach at Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife — faced a judge and heard defence and Crown counsels argue the sentence appropriate for his crime.

Freake pleaded guilty in February to touching a person under the age of 14 for a sexual purpose. He originally faced other charges, but they were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea.

His crime took place sometime between 2011 and 2016. Freake, now 47, would have been in his late thirties and early forties during that time.

A publication ban prevents the disclosure of any details that might identify the young victim. 

'Deliberate' crime says Crown

Crown lawyer Travis Weagant argued for an eight-month sentence and two years probation under several conditions including mandatory counselling and no contact with the victim. Freake would also be excluded from any role, whether as an employee or volunteer, where he would have authority or a position of trust involving anyone 16 or younger, for five years. 

Weagant could have asked for a conditional sentence — a sentence with no jail time — but he did not believe it appropriate in Freake's case. 

Weagant said that by making an early guilty plea, Freake has "taken responsibility in an important way," but the abuse he admitted to was "deliberate" and "not spontaneous." And while Freake expressed remorse with his guilty plea, he does not have a plan in place for rehabilitation.

The Crown also listed aggravating factors that preclude a conditional sentence: abuse of a minor, breach of trust, and abuse over multiple instances which was progressive in nature. Because of the aggravating factors, Weagant said the primary focus of the sentence needs to be deterrence.

Calling Freake's actions unacceptable and careless, Weagant said Freake should do jail time. Weagant said, "responsibility is high," because of the gravity of the offence.

Community service and 'very strict' orders: defence

Freake's defence lawyer argued for a conditional sentence of 12 months or longer under "very strict" conditions regarding Freake's movement and activities.

Leslie Arthur Moore said Freake's behaviour was "out of character."

The judge challenged Moore on what he meant by "out of character."

Moore told the court Freake had no criminal record to touching a minor for sexual purposes prior to pleading guilty .

Jail time for Freake — a single dad — would also be hard on his son, said Moore. And serving a conditional sentence from home might allow him to work as a graphic designer and make payments on his mortgage, said Moore.

Freake's conditional sentence would include counselling and 20 hours of community service every month.

'Deeply, deeply sorry,' says Freake

No victim impact statement was read in court. The victim had declined the opportunity.

But Freake spoke for himself. His voice cracked and wavered as he read a statement in court.

He said he was "deeply, deeply sorry" and "accepts full responsibility" for actions which have "severely impacted my life in all aspects."

Freake said he rarely leaves home, has seen his health and relationships deteriorate, suffers constant anxiety and has felt public pressure following news stories about his case.

Freake tried counselling, he said, but "couldn't build that trust."

He said he's "deeply ashamed" and wants to be a "positive and contributing citizen."

Justice Donovan Molloy gave Freake "full credit" for his early guilty plea which spared his victim the court process.

Molloy reserved his decision, now scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 24.

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