Graham James liked boys.
He worked with them on hockey teams. He was a coach. He sought out the kids that seemed to need a little extra attention. He lured them — and their parents — into his confidence, then he would sexually abuse them. He told them that if they told anyone, he would ruin their hockey career and they would never play again, never make it to the NHL. He’d tell everyone they were gay, tell everyone they liked it. He told them he would ruin their lives unless they accepted the abuse.
This morning, James was sentenced to two years in prison for each offense — for abusing former NHL player Theoren Fleury and his cousin Todd Holt, also a junior hockey player. The sentences will be served concurrently, meaning that under Canadian law, James will be eligible for parole in just over 7 months. Charges for a third alleged victim, Greg Gilhooly, were stayed in December under a plea bargain that saw James plead guilty to abusing Fleury and Holt. It was Gilhooly’s revelation that James’ previous convictions for abusing kids under his watch including NHL player Sheldon Kennedy had been quietly pardoned, leaving James free to leave the country where nobody knew of his crimes — free to abuse other children, should he choose to do so. And it was this revelation that led to changes in Canadian law that will make pardons far harder to obtain, especially for perpetrators of violent crimes or sexual abuse.
But Gilhooly will never now get a day in court. And one of James’ acknowledged victims, Todd Holt, was disgusted by the two year sentence. Holt called the sentence a “national travesty,” calling justice for Graham James a mere “blip on the radar.” James has also drastically altered his appearance since last appearing in court, and even hid his face on arrival to his sentencing today — leaving him able to slip quietly back into society before the end of the year, those around him none the wiser.
Graham James abused boys for decades, boys who had big dreams of making the NHL. He was in a position of power to grant those dreams, and he used those dreams to control and intimidate these boys so that he could carry out his own sick and twisted plans. He ruined lives and devastated families. And for this, he’ll be in jail for less than a year.
Justice, or not?
Photo from Thinkstock