Crown seeks year in prison for dance teacher

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Sexual exploitation of teen carries minimum 45 day sentence

Oliver Nino Damaso can’t dance himself out of a jail sentence – he faces a minimum of 45 days behind bars.

The former St. Albert hip-hop dance teacher will be sentenced July 5 for sexual exploitation, stemming from a 2009 sexual encounter with one of his adolescent students. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 45 days.

“We have a man that made a stupid, foolish mistake and he will pay for this for the rest of his life,” said defence lawyer Mark Facundo. “Regardless of the sentence, his life as a dancer is effectively over.”

Crown Prosecutor Maria Caffaro told Edmonton’s Court of Queens Bench Thursday she was seeking a sentence of 12 months behind bars.

She said Damaso spent close to a year pursuing an inappropriate relationship with the minor, whose identity is protected under a publication ban.

Facundo said he felt a sentence of between three and five months – to be served intermittently – was justified.

“His career as a dance instructor is irreparably damaged,” he said, adding Damaso feels shame when speaking to members of the Edmonton dance community.

Court was told Damaso, then 27, drove the 16-year-old dance student to her home after she was stranded after an event. She invited him into her family’s home, which was empty at the time and the two began engaging in consensual sex. The victim asked him to stop, and they paused for a brief moment before being interrupted by the doorbell.

Damaso was charged with one count each of sexual assault and sexual exploitation in March 2010, following an investigation by Strathcona RCMP.

He was found guilty of sexual exploitation and acquitted of sexual assault in November 2011.

Dr. Curtis Woods, consulting forensic psychiatrist with Alberta Health Services, took the stand Thursday to present his findings.

Woods said Damaso “somewhat minimized personal responsibility,” adding Damaso felt he was supporting the victim.

“At the end of the day … there was an imbalance with respect to power and trust,” he said.

Caffaro said aggravating factors netting her 12-month submission included that the victim was a minor, the offence occurred in her home and that the exploitive relationship developed over time.

Mitigating factors included having a supportive family, no prior record and supportive places of employment.

Following his arrest, Damaso was immediately suspended from teaching at The Art of Dance located in Campbell Business Park.

Although the legal age of consent in Canada is 16, individuals under 18 years of age are not legally able to consent to sex with a person in a position of trust or authority.

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