Judge sides with coach in sexual assault case
Hockey coach sexual assault case goes to sentencing in fall
By: By Ryan Tumilty
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 25, 2012 06:00 am
A provincial court judge ruled Tuesday that Robert John Paolinelli’s actions in his bedroom with a 16-year-old hockey player last year were more in line with his version of events than the victim’s.
Paolinelli, 42, who had been coaching here in St. Albert, pleaded guilty earlier this year to sexual exploitation, but the Crown and the defence disagreed on exactly what took place in Paolinelli’s bedroom in Stony Plain.
Stemming from a two-day hearing in June, Judge Hugh Fuller issued a decision Tuesday saying he had trouble believing the victim’s version of events and was thus forced to lean toward Paolinelli.
The victim was a 16-year-old hockey player who was billeting with Paolinelli at the time of the offence. Both agreed they went into his bedroom to discuss hockey after an evening when they and two other players had been drinking.
Paolinelli admitted he had made a sexual advance towards the boy, but insisted it had been minor and quickly rebuffed. He testified during the hearing he offered oral sex to the victim, which the victim briefly agreed to, but he was then turned back when he went to remove a blanket.
The victim testified Paolinelli had not stopped, but had placed his hand overtop his genitals, had attempted to kiss him and partially rolled on top of him.
Fuller said he had problems with the victim’s version of events and suggested Paolinelli would not have been able to force himself on the victim.
“One would reasonably assume that a young, strong aggressive athlete would have addressed this proposal with a torrent of profanities or a physical response for which the accused would have required medical or dental attention.”
Fuller said it appears that with the amount of alcohol both had consumed the incident may have been a case of mixed signals. He said he was not suggesting the young man was gay, but that he might have inadvertently left Paolinelli with that impression.
“Perhaps in their state of impairment a left signal was inadvertently made or mistakenly interpreted notwithstanding that the victim had intended to turn right, which is clearly the route he travels.”
Outside the court, Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor said the case was one where the judge was simply left with doubt.
“At the end of the day he wasn’t satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the position the Crown put forward that more happened in the bedroom.”
With the facts settled in the case, the matter will now proceed to a sentencing hearing scheduled for October 25. A mandatory minimum in place for the offence means Paolinelli faces near-certain jail time.
“There is a very broad range, but parliament has mandated that the floor on sexual exploitation when you proceed by indictment is 45 days,” said Taylor.
Paolinelli was involved with St. Albert minor hockey, but was suspended when the charges came to light last year. He has not returned to coaching, or to his teaching position at a Spruce Grove high school.