Christopher Michel wept as he apologized in court on Thursday to a female employee he sexually assaulted at the city’s sobering centre.
“I want to say I’m sorry,” said the admitted alcoholic, who is often homeless. “I feel shameful … so sorry.”
Michel, 40, grabbed the worker last August at the sobering centre – then based at the Salvation Army’s facility, on 45 Street and Franklin Avenue – as she was trying to help an intoxicated person who had collapsed in the road.
The court heard he grabbed her buttocks and crotch from behind.
A court worker read the woman’s victim impact statement.
“I feel angry and helpless. I feel gross and dirty about myself,” the worker stated. “You touched the most private part of my body without my consent.
“You broke not only my trust, but also my boundaries.”
‘Need to feel safe’
The assault occurred on August 21, a month before the new day shelter and sobering centre opened on 50 Street.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte said Michel initially had little recollection of the incident, but did not deny it happened as he was very intoxicated.
Harte said Michel – a father two children, who is expecting another child with a different partner – grew up in a home where “alcohol abuse and violence was frequent.”
He was also a victim of sexual “improprieties” and assault.
In accepting a joint sentencing recommendation, territorial court Chief Judge Christine Gagnon noted Michel has two previous convictions for sexual assault.
“A service like the sobering centre depends on being able to find not only qualified, but caring personnel,” said the judge. “People cannot go to work expecting they could be sexually assaulted. The workers need to feel safe.”
She sentenced him to 90 days in custody for the one count of sexual assault, followed by a one-year probation period during which he can access counselling.
He can have no contact with the victim and he cannot be at the new sobering centre and day shelter.
He will also appear on the national sex offender registry for the rest of his life.
Gagnon wondered what would happen if, after being released from jail, Michel was found intoxicated in a public place and brought to the shelter by the street outreach patrol van.
Crown attorney Jeff Major-Hansford said that would have to be addressed by authorities if it happened.