FORT MACLEOD – A Claresholm restaurant owner avoided going to trial on sexual assault charges Thursday morning, Nov. 1, by pleading guilty to two counts of common assault.
The pleas were entered at what was supposed to be the outset of a two-day trial in Fort Macleod Provincial Court.
The 47-year-old employed the victims at his restaurant and cannot be named in order to protect their identities.
Following the pleas, a statement of facts was presented to the court by Crown prosecutor Dawn Janecke. She explained that two victims – ages 17 and 19 – worked at the man’s restaurant when a variety of incidents occurred in 2017. The man would hug the girls and kiss them on the cheek to say hello, and at times put an arm around them. On separate occasions, he also put his hands on their faces, initiating what both girls believed was a kiss that they immediately rejected and pulled away from.
On those charges, the Crown has ordered a pre-sentence report that will examine the man’s background to help determine an appropriate sentence. A sentencing date has been scheduled for Jan. 30.
The man also entered into a peace bond on other allegations centred around similar circumstances in 2017 with four other female employees – three aged 15 and one who was 18. “The accused was overly physical with them in hugging and kissing [at work],” explained Janecke.
The peace bond – which does not constitute a guilty plea – will be in place for one-year, during which he must attend any counselling or treatment as recommended by a probation officer, have no contact with the four girls, and not employ anyone under the age of 18. Should he violate those terms, he could face criminal charges and be forced to pay $1,000.
Janecke noted that the original 11 counts against the man – including sexual assault, sexual interference, and sexual exploitation – will be dealt with when the matter returns to court for sentencing in January.
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