August 18, 2011 5:08 am

Romeo Cormier gets 18-year sentence for abduction judge condemns as ‘horrendous’

An RCMP officer escorts 62-year-old Romeo Jacques Cormier from court in Moncton, N.B. on March 25, 2010. The New Brunswick woman held captive by Cormier in a basement apartment for nearly a month where she was sexually assaulted says she feels her dignity has been taken away. T HE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan


MONCTON, N.B. – A New Brunswick judge condemned Romeo Cormier’s crimes as “horrendous” as he gave the man an 18-year prison sentence Thursday for holding a woman against her will and sexually assaulting her in his one-room basement apartment for nearly a month.

“It is necessary to separate Mr. Cormier from society,” said Judge Zoel Dionne of the Court of Queen’s Bench.

“You cannot treat people like objects to satisfy your basic animal instincts.”

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Last month, a jury found Cormier, 63, guilty of kidnapping, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and uttering death threats in a case that shocked the province.

The woman – whose identity is protected by a publication ban – testified during the trial that Cormier grabbed her at knifepoint in a parking lot on the night of Feb. 26, 2010, outside the shopping mall where she worked in Moncton, a city of 140,000.

She said she was held in the basement of a rooming house where he sometimes gagged and sexually assaulted her until she was able to escape on March 24, 2010, while he was out at a food bank.

Witnesses testified during the trial that the woman appeared scared when they saw her run into the street wearing just a T-shirt, underwear and socks that morning.

A victim impact statement from the victim was read into court Thursday by the Crown.

“My whole life has been consumed by what happened to me because he has no remorse,” Crown lawyer Annie St. Jacques read on the woman’s behalf.

St. Jacques sought a life sentence.

“The abuse she was subjected to will have a lasting psychological affect on her,” St. Jacques said in court.

The woman, 55, said Cormier threatened to kill her, and that she feared him so much that she didn’t dare grab one of the knives in his room and attempt to flee because she felt it would further jeopardize her life.

Cormier took the stand in his own defence, telling the court that the woman wanted to be with him and that she had enlisted him to kill her husband. The Crown recalled the woman to the witness stand, where she rejected Cormier’s testimony.

Dionne gave Cormier credit for the 512 days he has already served in remand, but suggested the odds of him rehabilitating were minute.

“The chances of his rehabilitation – never say never – are small,” Dionne said.

Defence lawyer Robert Rideout recommended a sentence of 10 to 12 years, minus the 17 months Cormier had already served in remand.

Rideout said Cormier’s crimes shocked the community, but that such behaviour is usually rooted in a mental disorder.

Rideout said a psychological assessment done in May 2010 showed that Cormier has narcissism, and as a result, he has diminished empathy for other people’s feelings.

“These are not the acts of a normal functioning mind, but a mind driven by compulsion,” he argued.

Both the Crown and the judge rejected Rideout’s interpretation of the psychological report.

Dionne also ruled that Cormier will have to serve half of his prison sentence before he becomes eligible for parole. He will also be placed on the national sex offender registry and have to submit a DNA sample.

After he was sentenced, Cormier took issue.

“I respect you your honour, but I think you were too harsh on me,” he said as he was led from the court.

He then turned to the Crown lawyers, saying, “You’re a couple of peasants with an education.”

Outside court, a daughter of the victim said the family was satisfied with the sentence and relieved the trial was over.

“We were hoping for at least 20 years, but 18 is definitely better than 10 or 15,” she said. “Overall, we’re definitely happy.

“With that 50 per cent ruling on parole it was a big victory for us because it puts a lot more years between us having to deal with this again.”

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