September 21, 2015 - 1:50 PM
PENTICTON - A 35-year-old Summerland man who conducted a secret relationship with a 16-year-old girl could face three months or more in jail.
Josh Roberts is expected to find out his fate today, Sept. 21 after entering a guilty plea in Penticton Provincial Court for sexual exploitation for his part in the relationship.
Judge Gregory Koturbash heard from Crown prosecutor Catherine Crockett the complainant - who cannot be named - was 16 when she started working in Roberts’ pizza shop, where the relationship began in the spring of 2011.
What began as flirting on Roberts’ part escalated into a sexual relationship. The two had sexual relations in the pizza shop’s washroom on as many as 20 occasions at the businesses’ two locations in Summerland and Penticton before the complainant ended the relationship in the summer of 2013. Roberts was the manager.
Crockett told court the relationship had a “mutuality" to it, but in retrospect, the complainant felt she was taken advantage of. She said Roberts knew early in the relationship the complainant suffered from depression and had suicidal thoughts. He also knew she had been a victim of sexual assault earlier in high school.
Neither Roberts nor the complainant spoke of the relationship to anyone. The girl’s parents were suspicious after witnessing the two exit the pizza restaurant’s washroom together on at least two occasions, but the relationship was denied by both, only coming to light in November of 2013 after the complainant’s friend saw Facebook exchanges between Roberts and the victim.
Roberts was arrested after a police investigation on Oct. 20, 2014. He confirmed the relationship’s sexual nature, as well as admitting his awareness of the victim’s past sexual assault, but told investigators he saw himself as a “good guy, helping her get rid of her demons.”
In reviewing Roberts’ pre-sentence report, Crockett noted Roberts had a history of “inappropriately-aged partners," who preferred the company of teens and admitted he had formed "inappropriate attachments to this group.” She called his behaviour “opportunistic,” saying he should have supported her in an adult fashion rather than entering into a sexual relationship.
Crockett said Roberts initially had trouble understanding his behaviour was more than immoral, being illegal as well. She said Roberts was deemed a low risk to reoffend and that he appeared to be starting to address the issues that led to his offence.
The sentencing hearing continues. Defence lawyer Tyrone Duerr is seeking the mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days, while Prosecutor Crockett is seeking “something more than the mandatory minimum.”
He could be sentenced as soon as this afternoon.
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