TORONTO – The man at the centre of the Maple Leaf Gardens abuse scandal did not conspire with an alleged accomplice to lure boys into sex acts, an Ontario judge ruled Monday.
As a result, the judge dismissed the Crown’s suggestion that a conspiracy should be viewed as an aggravating factor in the sentencing of sexual predator Gordon Stuckless, a former Gardens usher.
In reaching her decision, Ontario court judge Mara Greene said she had doubts about the reliability of the victim’s memory.
The victim had told a pre-sentencing hearing he was at the famed arena in the early 1970s as a 10-year-old when he came across John Paul Roby, another convicted child abuser, who contacted Stuckless on a walkie-talkie.
“I have another one,” the witness said he heard Roby say.
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Greene was skeptical.
Even if Roby had uttered those words, they were ambiguous. To suggest they implied a “grand conspiracy” about herding up young boys would be an “unfair interpretation,” the judge said.
“Anything could have been meant,” Greene said.
In addition, the man testified that Stuckless, who is circumcised, was not circumcised at the time of the abuse, the judge said.
While it is possible Stuckless, who pleaded guilty last year to 100 charges related to the sexual abuse of 18 boys decades ago, had the procedure later in life, the judge said it was unlikely.
At the same time, Greene stressed she had no doubt the boy had been sexually abused, and her conspiracy ruling was not intended to minimize that fact.
“This does not take away from the harm suffered,” she said.
Greene also rejected as an aggravating factor testimony from a victim that Stuckless had violently dragged him by the ear or head from a classroom, and forced him into a school washroom to assault him.
She said it was unlikely Stuckless would have been violent toward a student in front of another teacher, who would surely have reported such an incident.
Greene did find aggravating factors in three other incidents: Two involved evidence Stuckless had penetrated two boys with his finger. In the third, the victim testified Stuckless had threatened to run him over with his car if he told anyone about the abuse.
The case returns to court March 6 for a date setting. On April 1, the court will hear arguments over a Crown request for a forensic psychiatric evaluation of Stuckless.
Stuckless pleaded guilty in 1997 to sex assaults on two dozen boys while he was an usher at Maple Leaf Gardens. He was also found guilty in the fall of two charges of gross indecency linked to two of 18 victims.
Prosecutor Kelly Beale has said she intends to seek a dangerous offender designation, which would allow an indefinite sentence. Stuckless’s lawyer, Ari Goldkind, says the label is unwarranted, in part because his client is chemically castrated.