Former N.B. petting zoo owner facing 32 sex crime charges makes court appearance

·2 min read
Michael Sorenson appeared in Fredericton provincial court on Wednesday Jan. 5, 2022. The former petting zoo owner from Noonan, N.B. is facing 32 sex crime charges. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Michael Sorenson appeared in Fredericton provincial court on Wednesday Jan. 5, 2022. The former petting zoo owner from Noonan, N.B. is facing 32 sex crime charges. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

A former petting zoo owner facing 32 sex crime charges has had his case set over for another three weeks to allow his lawyers more time to review documents regarding search warrants.

Michael Sorenson of Noonan, just east of Fredericton, appeared in provincial court on Wednesday and was originally expected to enter a plea on the charges, which include voyeurism, making child pornography and sexual exploitation.

Instead, defence lawyer Emily Cochrane asked for an adjournment to allow her colleague, T.J. Burke, more time to review the information to obtain, or ITO, orders filed by police.

"My instructions are to seek further adjournment as there has been disclosure made on the ITOs, that Mr. Burke requires some more time to go through the ITOs and get instruction from Mr. Sorenson," she told the court in Fredericton.

In a news release on Sept. 27, 2021, RCMP said the 38-year-old man was arrested on Sept. 7, 2021, and was charged with 12 counts of voyeurism, 10 counts of making child pornography, three counts of sexual exploitation, three counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of invitation to sexual touching, and one count each of sexual interference and sexual assault.

So far, we have identified several New Brunswick victims, and actively continue to investigate to identify other potential victims. - New Brunswick RCMP Cpl. Hans Ouellette

Six previously laid charges for sexual exploitation, sexual touching, voyeurism, making child pornography and possession of child pornography were vacated, the RCMP said.

"We know this individual used to own a petting zoo in Noonan until 2020, and would travel across the province to different events, hiring locals who stayed at hotels with him," said Cpl. Hans Ouellette with the New Brunswick RCMP, in the September 2021 news release.

"So far, we have identified several New Brunswick victims, and actively continue to investigate to identify other potential victims."

RCMP say the charges stem from incidents alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2020, involving several identified victims, as well as unknown victims.

A court-imposed publication ban is in place to protect the identities of the victims as well as any information that could potentially identify them, RCMP say.

Wednesday was the second time lawyers requested Sorenson's plea be adjourned.

On Nov. 12, 2021, Burke asked for four to six weeks in order to go through the ITOs filed by police.

Speaking to reporters after that appearance, Burke said accessing the ITOs would allow him to review the documents that were filed by police in order to obtain a search warrant against Sorenson.

Justice Natalie LeBlanc adjourned Sorenson's case to Jan. 27.

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