WARNING: This story contains descriptions that may be disturbing.
A Riverview basketball coach was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison for secretly filming young players in washrooms and locker rooms and then posting images online while seeking help to prey upon children.
Shawn Curtis Nickerson of Riverview has pleaded guilty to 32 charges that include making child pornography, voyeurism, and possessing and accessing child pornography. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual touching of a person under 16 years old.
There were 21 identified victims in his recordings, while others weren't identified. Nickerson also had what Crown prosecutors described as a collection of videos and images made by others.
"These victims and their families were betrayed by a man they trusted and respected as their coach," said Moncton provincial court before Judge Paul Duffie.
The judge agreed to the prison sentence jointly recommended by Crown prosecutors and Nickerson's defence lawyer.
He said the Crown had shown there was planning in Nickerson's actions and a progression in his crimes seeking more involvement with victims.
A mother, who can't be named because of a court-ordered publication ban on the identities of the victims, said families are relieved.
"We're glad that it was caught when it was," the mother said.
Crown prosecutor Karen Lee said the case was different from others because of the number of victims involved.
"So I think the impact on the community is much more significant than we've often seen," Lee told reporters after Nickerson was sentenced.
"The victimization, when it becomes so broad-based, is felt all around the community."
Crown prosecutor Malika Levesque outlined 13 victim impact statements to the judge, and four statements from organizations affected by Nickerson's actions. Levesque said several victims didn't provide statements because they didn't want Nickerson to have access to their words and thoughts.
She said for many, it has tainted their time playing basketball.
"It's just a shadow now on their experiences that should be remembered with fondness."
One statement, from a school the children attended and Nickerson coached, said students and staff no longer feel safe and many are angry because of broken trust.
"The school coaches that worked closely with Shawn Nickerson have a deep sense of guilt, that they may have missed something and that he was permitted to interact with our students," one of the statements says.
The sentencing hearing began Friday morning with Crown prosecutor Malika Levesque reading an agreed statement of facts to the judge.
More than two dozen people sat in the public gallery during the sentencing hearing. Some sobbed, others held their head in their hands and looked at the floor as the Crown outlined Nickerson's crimes.
Nickerson used three small cameras to record children between 12 and 16 in hotel bathrooms, gym locker rooms and his own home when children visited.
The investigation began in January 2020, when the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Crime Centre was informed by the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency that someone was posting child pornography on the dark web.
The dark web is a part of the internet that's more difficult to access. Using various technologies, users can disguise their true identity online, making them harder to track down.
However, Levesque said at one point the person posting about being a coach didn't use a system to mask their identity and their IP address in Riverview.
"Mr. Nickerson made one mistake," Lee told reporters. "And that's how we got caught."
She said there was a global effort involving multiple police forces to track him down.
RCMP used open-source information, which can include things like public social media accounts, to determine the poster was Nickerson.
A search of his home in October 2020 led police to find three "spy" cameras and various electronic devices with child pornography he had created or obtained.
The judge was told Nickerson's electronics had dozens of videos he made himself starting in 2016. He stopped in March 2020 because the pandemic led to many activities like schools and sports being halted.
Nickerson was arrested when his home was searched and admitted to police that people in the recordings were basketball players he coached.
Among the evidence given to the judge by the Crown were more than 200 pages of dark web message board posts by Nickerson that sought help with using the spy cameras, described his victims in detail, sought advice on how to lure children and how to deal with parents.
Levesque described his behaviour as insidious.
He posted about hoping more would happen with the children than just coaching them, saying he had a good relationship with their parents who let the children come to his home.
He would try to give them water so they would use the washroom where he would have set up a camera to record them.
In one post she read, Nickerson asked other users of the forum about how to recover a file on a memory card he accidentally deleted, saying he had a "good day" with a spy camera.
In some posts, she described Nickerson's joy at recording children, and his being upset when nothing occurred.
"I figured I'd get him tonight for sure," Nickerson wrote in one post the Crown read, adding that the child would be coming over multiple times the following week.
Nickerson also admitted sexually assaulting a person between seven and eight. The crime occurred sometime between Dec. 25, 2018 and June 2019.
The Crown said the child knew that timeframe because the pyjamas the child wore were a Christmas gift.
During the sentencing hearing, Nickerson sat in the prisoner's box wearing orange jail issued clothing mainly looking at the floor.
Offered the chance to speak by the judge, Nickerson expressed remorse for his actions that have caused disappointment and heartbreak.
"You all deserved better from me," he said while crying. "I destroyed everything I had in life and in doing so lost so many people who meant so much to me."
Abel Le Bouthillier, Nickerson's lawyer, said his client pleaded guilty to avoid a trial that would further harm the children.
Ban on visiting variety of locations, using internet
A publication ban prevents reporting anything that would identify the victims.
The judge ordered Nickerson to stay away from locations like schools, public parks or playgrounds where people under 16 are likely to gather for life. It prohibits him from being within two kilometres of the homes where victims live.
The order prohibits him from any work or volunteer work that would put him in a position of trust. He is also prohibited from any contact with anyone under 16 years old without supervision.
The order also prohibits him from using the internet.