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TORONTO, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On the last day of Ben Levin’s three-day sentencing hearing for three child pornography-related convictions, Ontario Justice Heather McArthur questioned whether his “knowledge of children” made Levin “more morally blameworthy” than someone without this expertise.
The 63-year-old former deputy minister of education for Manitoba and Ontario and one-time tenured professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) pleaded guilty on March 3, 2015 to making written child pornography, possession of child pornography, and counseling a person to commit a sexual assault.
“He more than most would know how horribly wrong this was,” McArthur observed to Levin’s lawyer, Clayton Ruby, but “despite his special knowledge, he proceeded.”
The defence argued during the April 13-15 hearing for a two-year penitentiary sentence, while the Crown wants Levin behind bars for three-and-a-half: six months for possession, one year for making written child pornography, and two years for counseling to commit a sexual assault, to be served consecutively.
The Crown further asked that Levin’s DNA be added to the offenders’ databank, that he be on the Sex Offender Information Registry for life, and that he be banned for 20 years from parks, daycare centres, and schools where minors may be expected to be, from seeking employment that would put him in contact with anyone under age 16, and from contact with minors without court-approved supervision.
The Crown also requested that Levin be barred from unsupervised Internet use.
In an April 14 submission, Crown prosecutor Allison Dellandrea read excerpts from Levin’s online chats with three undercover officers on the “M” website, which features “incest” chat rooms. In an ongoing conversation over numerous chats, Levin instructed Toronto police officer Jannelle Blackadar, who was posing as a single mother, to groom and sexually assault in sadomasochistic ways a fictitious 8-year-old daughter.
“The plain, unmistakable, unvarnished encouragement of this parent to proceed, in his own words, ‘With whatever feels good to you’,” Dellandrea told the court Tuesday, shows “potential indicators that he was dealing with a person who genuinely had access to a child and was fulfilling his direction.”
The defence argued that Levin viewed these chats as fantasy, but the Crown pointed out that Levin never mentioned this to Blackadar, nor did he tell her to stop. Neither did he note her persona, or those of the two other officers involved in the sting operation, as “fake” on his “aa3” document, which meticulously records his 1,726 sex-chat online contacts.
Levin’s online counseling sexual assault and his writing and sending a sadistic child rape story “included by necessity the spectre of very real risk to real children in society to whom we all owe protection as opposed to violation,” Dellandrea said.
During defence submissions Wednesday, Justice McArthur questioned Ruby if Levin’s “developmental knowledge of children,” made him more “morally blameworthy.”
The 73-year-old Ruby, whose past clients notably include now deceased abortionist Henry Morgentaler, contended that special knowledge is not an “aggravating factor” in sentencing. That would be tantamount to saying a person is “brighter than the average guy so we’re going to punish him more than usual. We do not do it.”
McArthur questioned Levin’s recklessness in pursuing sadomasochistic incest “fantasies” despite knowing an actual child could be so used. “Had Mr. Levin been chatting with a real mom who perpetrated a sexual assault on a little 8-year-old girl, would it make a difference if he thought she wasn’t real?” she asked. “He was lucky that was an undercover agent and not a real mom. It could have been a real eight-year-old girl sadistically sexually assaulted by her mother.”
When she put the question to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Julian Gojer on Monday, “he said, ‘Well, yes, he knew there were real children,’” McArthur said, adding that Levin’s attitude demonstrably was, “I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t care less because I was thinking about my own perverse sexual desires and not that little child.”
Defence lawyer Gerald Chan argued that “compelling evidence of recklessness is an element” of counseling to commit a sexual assault. That Levin was guilty of recklessness is inherent in his admission to that offence, not an “aggravating factor” in sentencing.
McArthur also noted the “sadistic” nature of Levin’s discussions of sexual abuse of children, and that a function of sentencing is to “deter and denounce” acts society finds repugnant. It’s “common sense” that if “sexual abuse of children is bad, the sadistic sexual abuse of children is worse.”
“Two years in prison is more than enough denunciation and deterrence,” Ruby countered. “That’s a huge amount of denunciation. The public will see it as huge.”
Moreover, Levin lost his job as professor at OISE, lost his access to speaking engagements and research, and has been “subjected to an enormous amount of public shaming, more so than most” and to “hatred” and “vitriol,” particularly online comments.
Levin could not even take the “routine step” of soliciting letters of reference from friends and colleagues without media scrutiny, Ruby said.
His request for reference letters evidently sparked a counter-campaign by REAL Women, and Ruby introduced as evidence of Levin’s shaming and stigmatization the approximately 100 letters from concerned citizens demanding a stiff sentence. These pointed to Levin’s role as architect of the 2010 controversial sex-ed curriculum, virtually identical to that which Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government released this February.
Ruby also entered as evidence 34 letters of support, from family – including Levin’s brothers, three daughters and wife, as well as nieces and nephews – and from friends and past colleagues.
The hearing ended with Levin himself briefly addressing the court, while his brother and wife sat among the handful of spectators, including over a half-dozen media members.
“First, I am truly sorry for what I’ve done. My actions were shamefully wrong. I fell far short of my own ideals and my previous behaviour,” Levin read out from a prepared statement, his head down and his voice uncertain at times.
“I participated in activities that victimized children. I’ve hurt everyone I care about and I have undermined an entire career dedicated to improving public education.”
“All of this is a source of lasting shame to me and that pain and remorse will remain with me for life, whatever sentence I receive.”
Justice McArthur will hand down that sentence May 29.
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