Joshua “Taz” Brandon Desjarlais was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for the sexual assault of three underage Yellowknife teens.
Justice Shannon Smallwood declared Desjarlais had high “moral blameworthiness” for what took place. The 27-year-old was convicted on three counts of sexual assault in Supreme Court last month after a judge-alone trial.
In September 2017, Desjarlais had sex with three girls under the age of 16 over a two-week period.
Justice Smallwood said Desjarlais shared hard drugs, alcohol, and sex with the girls – aged 14, 14, and 15 at the time – in his Yellowknife apartment.
“There is a strong need to express society’s condemnation when the offence involves the sexual abuse of a person under the age of 16,” said Smallwood.
“[They] are still children … there is a need to protect them, even when they think it is acceptable conduct.
“The moral blameworthiness of adults in these situations is high.”
Smallwood said she concluded Desjarlais “did not honestly believe that two of the complainants were 16 and for the third complainant … he did not take any steps to ascertain her age.”
Desjarlais was sentenced to consecutive terms of 18, 24, and 18 months for the three counts of sexual assault.
Smallwood noted Desjarlais is Métis, adding she considered his Gladue factors in her determination. The longstanding Gladue principle, named after Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, requires judges to take into consideration circumstances facing Indigenous peoples in order to arrive at an appropriate sentence.
“The sentences I impose must be consecutive, as they are against a child … [but] I must also keep in mind the consecutive sentences I impose must not be unduly long or harsh,” the judge said, citing the totality provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.
It was also learned Friday that Desjarlais has a lengthy criminal record: 50 convictions, 11 involving violence.
Desjarlais recently received a 60-day sentence – while in custody on these sexual assault charges at the North Slave Correctional Complex – for uttering threats to a corrections officer.
While serving his sentence, he is not to contact any of the teenage victims.
Desjarlais has been in custody since his arrest in 2017.
Figuring in his in-custody conviction, the sentence means he has a credit of two years and four-and-a-half months, leaving him with two years and seven-and-a-half months to serve.
Upon his release, he will have to submit a DNA sample and will be on the national sex offender registry for life.
He will also not be allowed to be in a position of authority to anyone 16 years or younger.
The Crown had asked for an eight-year sentence. The defence countered with a request for four to four-and-a-half years, meaning – with his pre-trial credit – Desjarlais could have served his sentence in a territorial jail, with the possibility of obtaining probation.
Desjarlais is a father to a six-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. He was drinking, and using cocaine and MDMA, daily at the time of his arrest.
He has become sober while behind bars, the court heard.
“Hopefully, he will use this opportunity to continue with schooling, to gain employment, and become a father to his children,” said the judge.
Desjarlais showed no emotion throughout the proceeding.