Former Esgenoôpetitj chief released pending 10-year sex assault sentence appeal

·2 min read
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse on May 4, 2021 with his lawyer T.J. Burke.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Wilbur Dedam, right, leaves the Miramichi courthouse on May 4, 2021 with his lawyer T.J. Burke. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Former Esgenoôpetitj First Nation chief Wilbur Dedam will be released after spending three nights in prison.

Dedam, 68, was found guilty on four of six sexual assault charges following a trial last fall. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Christie sentenced him to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting or touching three female children between 1977 and 1985.

Within hours of the sentence, Dedam's lawyer T. J. Burke filed an appeal of the decision, asking the appeal court to quash the conviction and either throw out the charges or order a new trial.

On Friday, the Crown consented to his release pending appeal and Justice Barbara Baird signed a conditional discharge order.

Appearing by phone, Dedam acknowledged about a dozen conditions he must abide by while staying at his Esgenoôpetitj First Nation home.

Among them, he must not contact a list of about 20 people, including the three victims. He must also abide by a curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and only leave his home for medical purposes, court appearances, meeting with legal counsel and going to church. He must also not be anywhere near children under 18 and must abstain from alcohol or drugs not prescribed to him.

Baird said if he breaks these conditions he could go back to prison. The conditions will stay in effect until a decision is made on his appeal.

Present in person at the Fredericton courthouse were three people who vowed to be Dedam's "sureties," to be with him when he's out in public.

Second appeal, third trial

The appeal alleges the trial judge erred in dealing with inconsistencies in testimony by a victim. It also alleges the verdict is unreasonable and the sentence is excessive.

After he was found guilty, the Crown recommended a 10 to 12-year sentence, and the defence asked for a sentence of five to six years.

It was the third trial on these charges. Dedam was initially convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison, but that was overturned on appeal. The second attempt ended in a mistrial.

Dedam is required to appear in person for the next appeal hearing on Oct. 12, 2021.