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Victim details lasting trauma left by former N.S. teacher's sexual abuse

HALIFAX — A victim of a former teacher and hockey coach who pleaded guilty to 35 counts of decades-old sexual abuse in Nova Scotia says a week hasn't gone by in the past 40 years when he hasn't thought about the assault.
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HALIFAX — A victim of a former teacher and hockey coach who pleaded guilty to 35 counts of decades-old sexual abuse in Nova Scotia says a week hasn't gone by in the past 40 years when he hasn't thought about the assault.

The man, whose identity is protected by a court publication ban, was the only one of Michael Patrick McNutt's 34 victims to read a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

"Not until recently, through counselling and opening up to my family, have I been able to honestly tell myself that this was not my fault," the man told court via a telephone link.

"It is truly difficult to articulate how this has affected me. Would I have been different had this not happened? No one will know that for sure. This has always weighed on me, questioned my sexuality, impacted my confidence and my relationships and career."

The man said he was assaulted as a 13-year-old at McNutt's Halifax-area apartment in 1978 — an incident he didn't tell his family about until four years ago. He said he was drunk at the time after drinking beer that McNutt had supplied.

The document says McNutt told the victim he "had a nice body" before he assaulted him. Two other boys were also at the apartment — where the group was watching a hockey game on television — and McNutt took each of them into a separate room over the course of the night, the document says.

McNutt, now 67, has pleaded guilty to 10 charges of sexual assault, 20 charges of indecent assault and five counts of gross indecency.

The document says another boy was indecently assaulted in 1979 and 1980 when he was 11 or 12. In the first incident, McNutt snuck into the boy's hotel room where he was sleeping with his younger sister and fondled him.

It says the boy also suffered abuse at McNutt's apartment.

The statement of facts says McNutt held a permanent teaching position at Sir Robert Borden Junior High School between 1977 and 1983 but resigned in 1983 after "parental complaints regarding his behaviour with students."

He resumed teaching in 1985 as a substitute with the Halifax District School Board until a sexual offence complaint was made to police in 1994.

From 1977 to 1994, McNutt was involved with several minor hockey, baseball and football teams and leagues. He was also involved with the altar service and recreation programs at St. Joseph's Church.

The agreed statement noted that McNutt cannot recall specific details because of heavy alcohol use.

Crown attorney Mark Heerema told Justice Jamie Campbell on Monday that he is seeking a 15-year prison sentence.

"When a trusted adult, an adult in the inner circle of a child's life, exploits a child for his own sexual gratification, it's like dropping an atomic bomb on the development of that child's life," said Heerema. "For 19 years Michael McNutt went on an unadulterated and unbroken campaign to satisfy his sexual urges."

He said McNutt "weaponized" his positions of trust to ensnare young boys, and deserved as harsh a sentence as possible.

At one point Heerema told Campbell the impacts of the offences "far exceed" the sentence McNutt will ultimately receive in court.

"Above this utter depravity must rise the voice of this court in delivering its message of clear denunciation and deterrence," he said.

Defence lawyer Colin Coady called for a sentence of between three and five years, noting that McNutt had undergone treatment for his sexually abusive behaviour and hadn't offended for many years.

"Mr. McNutt is clearly remorseful for his actions, he pled guilty," said Coady.

Earlier, McNutt's family doctor told the court that he is dealing with several health conditions including diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD.

As a result, Coady told the court his client would be at much greater risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison, although Heerema countered that the virus exists inside and outside prison and shouldn't be a sentencing factor.

McNutt also addressed the court saying that words couldn't express the "deep remorse and complete empathy I have for the victims and their families ... for the pain and suffering I have caused them."

"I do not ask for forgiveness because I have difficulty forgiving myself," McNutt said. "I do hope that by taking these guilty pleas that my victims might finally have closure."

Justice Campbell is to issue a sentencing decision on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2020.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press




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