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Former Prince Rupert pastor sentenced for possession of child pornography

A Prince Rupert man who was a pastor has been given a conditional sentence of two years less a day followed by three years of probation for possessing child pornography.

Nathan Legault pleaded guilty to two charges in May 2022 — one for creating child pornography and one for possessing child pornography. He was sentenced by provincial court judge David Patterson in January, with the written decision only recently released.

The court learned that Legault began contacting minors he had met as a pastoral intern at baptist churches in Saskatchewan and Windsor, Ontario. Legault sent nude photos and videos of himself masturbating to two early teens — referred to as A.A.A. and B.B.B. in court documents — and their friends. He used fake social media accounts pretending to be a boy their age.

Legault also sent deepfake photos with A.A.A. and B.B.B.’s faces cropped onto nude images to the victims and their friends. A Windsor police investigation found that Legault had been sending the photos from Prince Rupert, where he was an associate pastor after moving to the area in 2018.

Crown and defence made a joint submission for the conditional sentence, which Patterson “reluctantly” accepted, fearing that the decision could “bring the administration of justice into disrepute and be contrary to the public interest.”

It took three sentencing hearings throughout 2023 during which the defence, then the Crown defended the sentencing recommendation to convince Patterson to accept it.

Patterson read a powerful victim impact statement from B.B.B., who detailed how Legault’s actions led her to consider suicide. B.B.B. also said Legault’s crimes led her to believe he would kidnap her.

“This has destroyed my physical and mental well-being. I am disgusted by the actions. I constantly ask myself, why me? This is something that can’t be erased and it will and has hurt me forever,” the young victim said.

Before sentencing, Legault requested a Gladue report after he began self-identifying as Métis through his great-great-grandmother.

Gladue reports are presented to judges to consider the “systemic and background factors of the offender, and the types of sentencing procedures and sanctions that are appropriate in the circumstances,” for Indigenous offenders, according to the Canadian Justice Department. Factors that may affect Indigenous offenders such as residential schools and family history of substance abuse are taken into account by sentencing judges in Gladue reports.

While Patterson ordered the Gladue report he ultimately dismissed it, deeming Legault’s self-identification as Métis had nothing to do with the charges he pled guilty to.

“I have not been presented with any evidence that suggests the horrific experience of Indigenous peoples with the Canadian residential school system played any role whatsoever in Mr. Legault’s life,” Patterson said.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Legault having a paternal great‑great‑grandmother who was a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in any way, shape, or form … contributed to his child pornography addiction.”

Patterson also warned his fellow judges that other non-Indigenous offenders could try to dupe the justice system and get the perceived benefits of lighter sentencing through Gladue reports.

“A tsunami is coming; driven by the desire of non-Indigenous people to get what they perceive to be the benefits of identifying as Indigenous,” Patterson said.

Legault’s sentence means he is on curfew from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays and house arrest 24 hours a day on weekends. He will be able to seek permission for up to four hours a week to attend personal errands, significant events and church.

Patterson considered aggravating circumstances such as the power imbalance between Legault and the young people.

“Mr. Legault abused a position of trust or authority in relation to his victims,” he said.

But the judge also noted mitigating factors such as Legault’s willingness to address his sexual addiction, his lack of a previous criminal record and the support he has received from family and friends. Legault married his wife in Prince Rupert in July 2020.

Legault was arrested by the Prince Rupert RCMP in 2021. The investigation unearthed a substantial amount of child pornography on his electronic devices.

Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View