|Police tape. (QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - A former Winnipeg teacher used his status as an aboriginal role model to sexually assault two teenage boys, a judge was told Wednesday.
Thomas Edwards was convicted of three counts of sexual assault following a trial last September.
"His modus operandi is being a loving, caring person, which is why people can’t believe he committed these offences," said Crown attorney Jennifer Mann.
Mann urged Justice Colleen Suche to sentence Edwards to six years in prison for the assaults, which occurred between 2003 and 2007 when the victims were between 14 and 16 years old.
Defence lawyer Ryan Rolston recommended Edwards be allowed to serve a two-year conditional sentence in Ottawa.
Suche questioned the appropriateness of a conditional sentence for a man who continues to claim he is innocent and who has near unanimous support of friends and family.
"That does not provide circumstances that are conducive to rehabilitation," Suche said.
In 2004, Edwards received an Aboriginal Youth Achievement award in recognition of his work changing navy cadet regulations requiring that aboriginal members sport military haircuts.
Court heard Edwards assaulted the boys -- who described Edwards as a friend and mentor -- while pretending to perform “healing” or “cleansing” ceremonies on them.
The offences came to police attention in 2007 after a friend of one of the victims reported the assaults to a social worker.
The victims testified Edwards fondled their naked bodies in a supposed effort to drive away evil spirits. One victim said Edwards performed oral sex on him.
Suche is expected to sentence Edwards in the spring.