Ex-Esgenoôpetitj chief appeals 10-year prison sentence for sexual assaults

·2 min read
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse earlier this month with his lawyer T.J. Burke.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse earlier this month with his lawyer T.J. Burke. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Hours after being sentenced on Tuesday to 10 years in prison on decades-old sexual assault charges, lawyers for former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam have filed a notice of appeal seeking to have the conviction overturned.

Dedam, 68, was found guilty on four of six charges following a trial last fall. Those four charges alleged he sexually assaulted or touched three females between 1977 and 1985 while they were children.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Christie said in his decision that Dedam's actions robbed the victims of their childhood.

"The sentence pales to the emotional and psychological prison you have already imposed" on the victims, Christie said during the sentencing in Miramichi.

Dedam appeared to listen to the proceedings but with no visible reaction.

Crown prosecutor Melanie MacAulay declined to comment on the outcome of the case Tuesday. The Crown had sought 10 to 12 years in prison for Dedam, while his defence lawyers said five to six would be appropriate.

T.J. Burke, one of the lawyers representing Dedam, had indicated they were likely to appeal the decision when he left court Tuesday morning.

"I think that you'll see in the coming days a decision that will be made by Mr. Dedam," Burke said.

The five-page notice of appeal cites five grounds for appeal.

It seek to appeal the conviction and his sentence. The notice asks the Court of Appeal to quash the conviction and enter an acquittal, or order another new trial.

It says Christie erred in in dealing with inconsistencies in testimony by a victim, the verdict is unreasonable and the sentence excessive.

A hearing will be held Friday to decide whether Dedam remains in prison pending a decision by the Court of Appeal on whether to hear the case.

Dedam stood trial by judge alone over several weeks last October in Miramichi.

It was the third trial on the charges, with the first conviction with a nine-year prison sentence overturned on appeal. A second attempt with a jury trial ended in mistrial.

It's been a long day coming that we finally see justice prevail. - Sister of a victim

A sister acting as a spokesperson for the victims said it was overwhelming to see sheriffs lead Dedam away to prison.

"This has been a long, arduous journey," she said.

"It's been overwhelming, it's been detrimental not just to my family. It spilled over into the entire community. It's been a long day coming that we finally see justice prevail."

She acknowledged the case isn't over yet because they were aware Dedam would seek to appeal the decision.

She cannot be named because it would identify the victims, who are protected by a publication ban.