Credits: Winnipeg Sun
EDMONTON -- An emotional sentencing hearing on Monday for an Edmonton teacher found guilty of sexually abusing an autistic teen heard the girl's family was devastated.
Robert Hall, 61, was convicted April 19 of sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation of a mentally disabled person while in a position of trust after a judge ruled he used the 14-year-old girl for his "sexual gratification" by having her straddle him while he was doing situps in a fitness room and rocking back and forth.
The mother of the girl, now 16, cried as she confronted Hall while reading out her victim impact statement.
"I entrusted my disabled child to you," said the woman, who cannot be named under a court-ordered ban on publication issued to protect the identity of her daughter.
"You had no business touching my girl," she said. "Having someone victimize my child has created so much distress, it's indescribable. Like an earthquake, this incident shook our family to its core and left a family, already under stress from having an autistic child, shattered."
The girl's father told court he experienced "anger, rage, helplessness and anxiety" when the sexual allegations came out. He said it had a "devastating effect" on he and his wife, and led to their marriage breaking down.
"I will never be able to trust another caregiver again," he said. "Mr. Hall took that trust away from me."
The victim's sister called Hall a "despicable human being" and said it was "unforgivable" and "absolutely revolting" that he had abused a special needs student.
Crown attorney Robert Beck argued Hall should be handed a jail sentence of between nine and 12 months, to be followed by two years of probation.
Defence lawyer Dino McLaughlin suggested a conditional sentence to be served in the community, if it is available, or a jail term of between three and four months.
McLaughlin told court that Hall continues to maintain his innocence and said he has lost his teaching career, as well as several other jobs he had, as a result of the publicity surrounding the conviction and an ensuing lawsuit.
He also submitted character reference letters on behalf of Hall, whom he described as an award-winning teacher and volunteer, and noted his many supporters in court.
A sentencing decision is scheduled for July 23.
Court has heard the sexual assaults happened in the spring of 2011 at Allendale School where Hall taught a special interaction program for autistic students.
He was investigated and the girl was interviewed after another teacher saw Hall with the girl's legs around him in the fitness room and reported it to the principal.
On June 3, the girl's parents filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against Hall and the Edmonton Public School Board.