The Guelph Mercury
13 April 2012
James BoudreauFormer Catholic priest James Boudreau before his appearance earlier this year at Guelph’s Ontario Court of Justice. Boudreau is to be sentenced next month for sexually assaulting two boys in the 1980s.
Scott Tracey,Guelph Mercury
GUELPH — One of the sex assault victims of defrocked Guelph priest James Boudreau says his life spiraled downward from the abuse like a blow from a “wrecking ball” from which he still hasn’t recovered.
“It left me completely devastated and forever changed,” the victim, who cannot be identified, said in a victim impact statement offered Friday at a sentencing hearing for Bourdreau. To this day, he struggles with depression, isolation, loss of faith, despair and shame, court heard. He’s lost friends and fears his identity becoming public.
The victim, 17 at the time of the offence, during the 1980s, termed the assault “an act of betrayal,” from a priest he greatly admired. “I became the unwitting victim of a cunning aggressor” who wanted him for “his perverse sexual pleasure,” court was told.
There were clashes Friday over the appropriate penalty for the former St. John The Baptist Catholic Church priest. Crown prosecutor Steve Hamilton urging the court to issue a jail term and defense attorney Roger Yachetti, of Hamilton, suggested a conditional sentence would be an appropriate disposition.
After a lengthy day of submissions, Justice Gary Hearn adjourned sentencing of Boudreau, who earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually assaulting the boys almost 30 years ago, when they were 15 and 17 years old.
“This is a very difficult sentencing,” Hearn said, in putting it over to May 28.
The short, goateed Boudreau, 69, expressed regret when Hearn offered an opportunity to address the court.
“I have great remorse over events of the past . . . and I am truly sorry,” Boudreau said, describing his action’s as “scandalous” to the Catholic Church’s local Hamilton Diocese. The courtroom appeared divided Friday, with supporters of the ex-priest on one side, victim family members on the other, as defense and prosecution presented sentencing options.
In 1983 at his rectory, Boudreau sexually touched a 15-year-old boy, court heard on a previous court date. A year later, he engaged in oral sex with his other victim.
Yachetti noted Boudreau resigned as a priest when a bishop asked him to – after he admitted the offences, an act that also preserved his church pension.
He also pointed to a psychological report that asserted Boudreau was not a pedophile and referred to numerous letters of support for the former priest that described him as inspirational, compassionate and understanding.
“Jimmy, we are here for you,” he quoted one woman’s letter.
Five character witnesses throughout the region, including retired Father Edward Hampson, of Dundas, testified Friday that Boudreau was honorable, funny, “nice” and deserving of respect.
“I would trust him with my life, would trust him with my family,” Hampson said. “My opinion of who he is has not changed.”
That was a theme among the witnesses: they were willing to forgive.
In fact, friend Wendy Bedirian, of Kitchener, went further, suggesting he’d suffered enough with his loss of reputation and position with the church.
“He’s been destroyed,” Bedirian said.
Yachetti pondered how to reconcile these kind words with the crimes, before offering an explanation.
“It was a failure of humanity — my client’s humanity,” Yachetti said.
“No question the offences here are serious,” Yachetti told the judge. But he suggested mitigating circumstances, including the decades since the offences and their isolated nature.
“There is no (criminal) record here of any kind,” he said. Boudreau has generally “led a good life.”
Yachetti also suggested the former priest had suffered tremendously. “What he has brought upon himself is a lifetime of vilification and humiliation.”
In jail, he would be a target. “I can almost guarantee it,” Yachetti added.
But Hamilton said the victims mustn’t be forgotten. They were boys at the time and “the facts are very aggravating.” He said Boudreau was in a position of trust when the crimes occurred. Hamilton added the fact the younger boy had suffered sexual abuse in an earlier, unrelated case made matters worse.
The prosecutor also said Boudreau’s assaults on the boys appeared to escalate in severity from the first instance to the second. Boudreau, he said, “has left two men emotionally scarred.”
“This case,” Hamilton said, “calls out for a traditional jail sentence.”