Graham James: an unspeakable crime – justice for no one
Graham James -- The Hockey News’ “Man of the Year” in 1989 was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in a Canadian prison, two years for raping two teenage boys, two years for stealing the hopes and dreams of two teenage boys, two years for being a predatory child molester more than a hockey coach.
Judge Catherine Carlson could have imposed James to as many as six in jail, two years, three years or even six years – tossing James down the sewer he deserves to be in might have been enough; Judge Carlson did what she believed was best, for the unspeakable crimes James committed against Theo Fleury and Todd Holt.
"There is no sentence this court can impose that will give back to Mr. Holt and Mr. Fleury that which was taken from them by Mr. James. The court expects there is no sentence it can impose that the victims, and indeed many members of the public, will find satisfactory," Judge Catherine Carlson during sentencing.
James abuse of teenage boys he had been entrusted to coach, to lead and to mentor, is a message that needs to be sent to every parent who has a youngster playing sports. Parents have always warned their daughters when they left the safety of their homes to be careful, make sure no one touches you or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable. The same wasn’t true for their sons. A son playing for a team was an honor, a triumph for father, mother and son. It was a right of manhood. Parents must today educate both their sons and daughters about men like Graham James.
The Fleury and Holt families had to believe they were living the Canadian dream in the 1980’s when their 14-year-old sons were selected to play for a hockey team coached by Graham James. He was a community treasure, a trusted leader, a man who would help their sons become men. Graham James could make their dreams come true.
"What happened to Mr. Fleury and Mr. Holt is every child's worst nightmare and every parent's worst nightmare," Judge Carlson offered.
Holt and Fleury both spoke out, the victims having a better understanding of whether justice was served on Tuesday in a Winnipeg courtroom.
Here is the statement Holt read to a news conference about the sentence, which was also on behalf of Fleury:
“I stand here today, on behalf of not only myself & my cousin Theoren Fleury, but as a voice for Everyman. For all the young boys, the old men & the ones that got stuck somewhere in between because of the most devastating type of abuse; sexual abuse inflicted on us by someone in a position of trust & authority. Theo and I were two of those who got stuck in that middle place between boy & man; we made some terrible choices & watched the life we were meant to lead spiral down the drain.
“Theo and I speak to men all over and we tell them: YOU, like us, are not alone; the effects are far-reaching & sometimes feel never ending, but there IS a place & time for healing. It is NOW. I stand here today, a Victor over sexual abuse & I, along with Theo, offer you our voice.
“This sentence today is nothing short of a national travesty because we know that childhood sexual abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country. Graham James once again perpetrated his crime and spread his sickness right through the courts of Canada. He conned the judge with his “poor me” and “I regret” statements. His lawyer defended the indefensible, and he’s been rewarded for doing so and Graham James is laughing all the way back to the life he’s always led knowing that justice for him is but a blip on the radar.
“Today as we speak, there is a boy out there going about his life, dreaming his dreams and hoping his hopes…until…Graham James crosses his path. And cross his path he will, because that’s what he does; he preys upon the unsuspecting, all the while knowing not much will happen to stop him. The courts of Canada have guaranteed that. The saddest part is that there are MANY Graham James; different names, in different towns & cities, in your own communities & yes, possibly even in your own families. Yes, I said it. They are everywhere. It is time that the predators know that they need to take notice and be scared ~ there is no place for you to hide; we are shedding light in those dark corners where you cower.
“Theo and I call upon all Canadians, those who have suffered, and those who stand with the suffering, to demand that our government change the laws and empower justice to be all that it could be, and to do all that it should. We are calling out to our politicians to stand up for the 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys who will be sexually abused before the age of 18 in our country. We are standing up against a weak justice system and demanding change now. Theoren & I are calling out to YOU, the people of Canada & the World to take this issue NOW, to our politicians, & DEMAND change. Ask for, & receive answers, for CHANGE & REAL JUSTICE, or simply refuse to cast your vote for that constituent.
“My name is Todd Holt and I stand today, with Theoren Fleury, & with ALL those who have suffered or are suffering, as a Victor over sexual abuse and an Advocate for change.”
Fleury played in the NHL for 16 years; he represented Canada at the Olympic Games and at the World Junior Hockey Championships. He also once had a gun to his head, driven to the brink of suicide in part by the pain James inflicted on him. Fleury sees hope in what happened on Tuesday.
“This is not about me anymore. This was never about personal revenge. What does revenge do? Nothing.
“This is about doing our utmost to eliminate the biggest epidemic we have on the planet. You have kids. I have kids. What’s important is that not one more kid has to go through what I did. What Sheldon (Kennedy) did. What Todd (Holt) did. That’s the reason for this entire exercise.
“I think Canada’s reaction to the sentence is a very positive step. The country is outraged. If you read what’s on Twitter right now, we’re starting to get the kind of reaction we need in order to make change.’’
Theo Fleury offers hope and a clear path as to what must next happen. Revenge, as Fleury pointed out, accomplishes nothing but anger and a resolve to create a better understanding to ensure what happened to Fleury, Holt, Sheldon Kennedy and to the victims Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have raped; that they never again have that opportunity. There have to better safeguards, parents have to be more vigilant when they allow and encourage their sons (and daughters) to become part of a team. Only through greater awareness can men like Graham James be stopped!
For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom