Retrial begins for Vernon hockey coach who had sexual assault conviction quashed | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Retrial begins for Vernon hockey coach who had sexual assault conviction quashed

Vernon Supreme Court

The retrial of a well-known Vernon hockey coach who had his conviction for sexual assault overturned began today in Vernon Supreme Court.

Businessman and former hockey coach Keith Chase appeared at the Vernon courthouse today, May 27, as a five-day trial got underway for the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl roughly 20 years ago.

In 2022, Chase was found guilty of sexually assaulting the teenager when she slept over at his home the night before a playoff game sometime in the early 2000s.

He was sentenced to 23 months jail, but barely saw a jail cell as he launched an appeal.

In the fall of 2023, three BC Court of Appeal Justices ruled in his favour and ordered a retrial.

Chase, who owns Chasers Bottle Depot, was a hockey coach for 30 years and was awarded the SportBC Community Sport Hero Award in 2015 for his service to the game.

The incident dates back to the early 2000s when Chase allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old hockey player who was the daughter of close family friends.

The teen was staying over at his house the night before a playoff game.

During the original trial, the court had heard how Chase had started kissing the teen in the kitchen that night.

She then went upstairs and he followed and sat on the bed. He then put his hand under her clothes.

"As he did so (she had) a feeling of embarrassment she recalls feeling sick and wondering when it would be over," the original Justice told the court during the trial that ended in a conviction. "She did not move or say anything."

Chase didn't deny that the sexual encounter took place but argued it was consensual. He was married with children and in his mid-30s at the time.

The complainant's name is covered under a publication ban and has been purposely vague to protect her identity.

During the original trial, Chase had said he knew what he did was wrong but he was unable to process it at the time and it was consensual.

The judge had disagreed saying Chase had acted with "willful blindness, callous indifference and recklessness as to whether (the teen) was actually consenting to sexual activities."

During his original sentencing, Chase presented roughly 20 letters of support describing him as a "family man."

Crown prosecutors rebutted saying it was Chase's status as a "family man" that gave him access to the teen in the first place.

The retrial will continue tomorrow and is expected to last the rest of the week.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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