Sex crime means jail for coach
Former St. Albert hockey coach jailed for sexual exploitation
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Friday, Mar 15, 2013 01:15 pm
A former St. Albert Minor Hockey Association coach will spend the next 45 days in jail for making a sexual advance on a 16-year-old hockey player.
Judge Hugh Fuller sentenced Robert John Paolinelli, 42, to 45 days in jail and two year’s probation Thursday in Stony Plain Provincial Court.
Paolinelli was sentenced for one count of sexual exploitation to which he pleaded guilty in in Dec 2011.
The crime happened at about 1 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2011, in the bedroom of Paolinelli’s Stony Plain home, Fuller said in his account of the case.
Paolinelli, a high school teacher who at the time was a coach for the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association, was billeting a number of hockey players in his home, including the victim, who cannot be named because of a publication ban.
Prior to the offence, Paolinelli, the victim and two other players had played a card game that involved drinking alcohol, removing clothes and lap dances.
When the other players went to bed, Paolinelli invited the victim into his bedroom to discuss hockey. Both were very intoxicated. After about 30 minutes of conversation, Paolinelli to the victim he wanted to engage in various sexual acts with him.
Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor and lawyer Brian Vail spent much of last summer’s sentencing hearing debating what happened next. Fuller found Paolinelli’s version to be more credible: Paolinelli made a sexual advance (he touched the victim’s leg with his hand) and was quickly rebuffed.
In a statement read in court by his mother, the victim said he gets sick to his stomach every time he thinks about the incident. “I always feel angry and mad at what I should have done,” he said. “I question whether it’s worth following my dream of continuing hockey.”
Taylor called for a 15-to-18 month sentence.
This crime did real psychological harm to the victim, Taylor said. Cases such as that of hockey star and sexual abuse victim Sheldon Kennedy show that players can still have deep emotional scars from abuse despite professional success.
As a teacher, coach and billeter, Paolinelli violated a three-headed position of trust, Taylor said. “The community has expressed outrage over this offence,” he said – an offence that raises alarm bells for other families that take part in sports billeting.
Paolinelli had more than hockey on his mind when he entered his bedroom with the victim, Taylor said. “The offender knew exactly what he was asking the victim and he knew exactly how wrong (it was).”
Vail called for 45 days, noting that Paolinelli had no prior criminal record, had been sexually abused by his uncle as a child, and was struggling with alcoholism, family issues and his sexual orientation at the time of the offence.
“There is no dispute that he ought not to have done this,” Vail said. “It was more than stupid. It was wrong and it was criminal.”
But Paolinelli confessed his crime to several people soon after the event, he noted, showed “extreme remorse” and sought treatment for his psychological and addictions issues. “He has admitted this event was entirely his fault.”
This crime was also limited in scope, Vail said. “We’re talking about an offer and a hand on a leg. It did not proceed beyond that.” Said offer was spontaneous, he continued – the result of a “perfect storm” of sexual abuse, alcoholism and family issues.
Fuller cited many of Vail’s arguments in his sentence.
“What happened here, in my interpretation of events, was very upsetting, but (with) the greatest respect, not a devastating traumatic psychological event,” Fuller said.
Still, he continued, “The accused, in a few brief seconds, shocked and scarred the complainant,” and destroyed his own teaching and coaching career. “You (Paolinelli) have been disgraced by your conduct with this young person, and it’s had serious consequences for both of you.”
This was a non-violent offence, Fuller said, one he was satisfied was not pre-meditated.
A forensic psychologist also found that Paolinelli had no pedophilic tendencies and was at a very low (less than 10 per cent) risk to reoffend, Fuller noted.
Fuller sentenced Paolinelli to 45 days in jail – the mandatory minimum sentence for this crime.
He also put him on probation for two years, during which, in addition to other conditions, he must complete a sex offender relapse prevention program, abstain from illegal drugs or alcohol, and not be in contact with anyone under 16 without parental authorization.
Paolinelli is also banned from possessing weapons for life. He must submit a DNA sample to the national criminal databank and register with the national sex offender registry.
This was the minimum sentence the judge could legally give, Vail said outside of court, “but we have an offender here who is the absolute minimum.”
There are no winner or losers in a case like this, he continued, and neither Paolinelli nor the victim will ever be the same. “Hopefully, as the judge said, they can both get on with their lives.”