|Canada Elder Gets No Jail Time
|The Prosecuter, criticized leaders of the congregation for being "completely uncooperative" with police during their investigation.
|No jail time for church elder
Waterloo Record, Canada - 18 minutes ago
A respected Jehovah's Witness elder was put on probation for two years yesterday for molesting a young girl while they were going door to door to spread ...
Probation for man who fondled girl while on Jehovah's Witness visits
A respected Jehovah's Witness elder was put on probation for two years yesterday for molesting a young girl while they were going door to door to spread their faith.
"It's like a priest fondling a child during a religious service," said Crown prosecutor Mark Poland.
Claude Martin, 77, was convicted of sexual assault for touching the 10-year-old girl's buttocks and vagina over her clothes while they were standing on the landing of a Kitchener home in 2000 or 2001.
He was acquitted after a five-day trial in Ontario Court of a second count involving a girl who was about the same age during an alleged incident in the late 1980s.
Although it was not admitted as evidence, the court also heard about a 2003 statement in which Martin told police he had a problem with sexual fantasies involving young girls.
He gave the statement while police were investigating an allegation that Martin exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl delivering newspapers. He was not charged in that incident.
Defence lawyer James Marentette argued Martin paid a heavy price for the brief fondling incident after being stripped of his leadership responsibilities with the Bridgeport congregation of the church.
"He is a sad and somewhat broken man as a result of the loss of those important elements of his life," said Marentette.
Poland, however, stressed the breach of trust involved in the crime because the girl and her family looked up to Martin.
Outside court, he also criticized leaders of the congregation for being "completely uncooperative" with police during their investigation.
Members of the girl's family have said they felt elders tried to sweep the matter under the carpet after they turned to them first before going to the police.
"Frankly, I think they need to be embarrassed into helping us find what the truth is in these cases," said Poland.
Ross Eddy, the presiding elder of the congregation, referred questions about its handling of the case yesterday to lawyer David Gnam.
Gnam called Poland's criticisms "unprofessional" and said the fact Martin has lost his leadership role -- although not his membership -- is evidence the congregation has taken action.
"It's certainly not the position of the congregation to harbour people who sexually take advantage of children -- absolutely not," he said.
Gnam said elders were in a difficult position during the investigation because they considered information about the incident confidential as a result of their pastoral role in the congregation.
Martin addressed the court during his sentencing, but did not apologize to the girl or her family.
Instead, he apologized to Justice Michael Epstein for his demeanour during the trial and expressed regret that the victim and her family have left the church.
Epstein agreed the timing of the assault during door-to-door preaching was an "extremely aggravating circumstance." He also noted its devastating impact on the girl.
"He represented the church in her eyes," said Epstein. "He was an elder, a well-respected man."
But he also took into account Martin's age, the loss of his position in the church and his humiliation because of publicity on the case.
The probation term includes an order to get counselling. In addition, Epstein placed Martin on a sex offender registry, prohibited him from working with children and banned him from parks, pools and other places kids are known to gather.
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