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Disgraced Kelowna gymnastics coach sentenced for child porn crimes

A former coach for a Kelowna gymnastics club has been sent to jail after pleading guilty to making and possessing child pornography.

The judge said the case is a tragedy no matter how you look at it and the damage done to the victims is incalculable.

Angelo Despotas, 48, was sentenced Monday to two years behind bars followed by three years probation. The mandatory minimum sentence for the two crimes is 18 months jail and the maximum is 15 years imprisonment.

Despotas hid a very small camera in a trash can in a washroom at the gym club.

It was remotely controlled with his smart phone to take video and live-view images and carefully positioned to capture unobstructed views of the genitalia of female students, as young as eleven, as they used the toilet.

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Police were helped in their investigation by Despotas inadvertently taking pictures of himself as he adjusted the camera.

One of his victims tearfully told the court: “Little did I know he was not looking to help me. He was looking to exploit me in ways I could not imagine. Because of him, that whole part of my life feels dirty.”

A search of Despota’s home computer turned up more than 2,000 images of child pornography of the very worst kind, including babies being raped.

With about two dozen of his former students in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, many of them crying, Despotas turned to face them saying: “The crime I committed was a gross intrusion and violation of personal privacy. My actions were inexcusable. I wish to express my deepest regrets and my most sincere apologies.”

But the mother of one of his victims says she will never forgive the former coach, saying in her victim impact statement: “The pain you caused us is so much more than a video.You left your scar on our family. You took more than you will ever know.”

One of his students, after finding out what happened to her, tried to commit suicide by swallowing pills.

The judge also banned Despotas for 20 years from attending parks, playgrounds, schools or swimming areas where children under 16 could be present.

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And for the rest of his life his name will be on Canada’s sex offender registry.