Yellowknife man given 4-year sentence 'unquestionably aware' relationship with teen was illegal

·3 min read
A 30-year-old Yellowknife man who had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl for more than a year has been sentenced to four years in prison.  (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
A 30-year-old Yellowknife man who had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl for more than a year has been sentenced to four years in prison. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.

A 30-year-old Yellowknife man who had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl for more than a year has been sentenced to four years in prison.

N.W.T. Territorial Court Judge Jeannie Scott handed down her decision Thursday, a week after Tyler Smith-Tsetta pleaded guilty to the sexual touching of a minor and breaching the conditions of his release.

He was originally facing 13 charges, including the creation and possession of child pornography and extortion, but 11 of those charges were withdrawn after his guilty plea.

The court heard that Smith-Tsetta, who grew up in Dettah, met the victim in early 2020 when he was 27. He would request nude photos of her and, if she didn't respond to his texts or social media messages, he would send her videos of him harming himself.

He repeatedly bought her alcohol and bought her a cellphone so the two could communicate. Smith-Tsetta also paid for hotel rooms for the pair to meet in secret.

In 2021, at the age of 14, the girl told an employee of her school about their relationship. Smith-Tsetta was arrested after that employee went to police. He was released in March 2021 on a number of conditions, including not having contact with the girl, not using his cellphone unless his father was present and to obey a curfew of 9 p.m.

At the time of his arrest, Smith-Tsetta was also facing a sexual assault charge for a previous incident involving an adult victim. He was later convicted and currently has seven and a half months left to serve on his 27-month sentence for that offence.

Shortly after his release in 2021, Smith-Tsetta contacted the girl and tried to resume a relationship, violating the conditions of his release. He was arrested again in May, and after police confiscated his phone they discovered a nude photo of the victim.

The Crown had argued for a sentence of five years in prison, while the defence had argued for a sentence of between four and four and a half years. As part of her decision, Scott also sentenced Smith-Tsetta to 30 days in prison for breaching the conditions of his earlier release — which he'll serve at the same time as his four-year sentence.

Judge accepts apology has genuine remorse

Scott said Smith-Tsetta was "unquestionably aware of the criminal nature of his behaviour" when he continued the relationship after being charged, and showed he was at risk of re-offending.

Scott said the significant age gap between the two, the fact he provided her with alcohol, and his efforts to convince her to send nude photos were also among the aggravating factors she considered while making her decision.

But she considered his guilty plea, which came four days before his trial was scheduled to take place, as a mitigating factor. It spared the victim from what would have been an "uncomfortable and challenging" testimony, and came early enough that expert witnesses hadn't begun travelling for the trial, she noted.

Scott also acknowledged Smith-Tsetta might have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and autism, and that he experienced trauma when he was told — as a child — he'd been adopted.

When he pleaded guilty last Friday, Smith-Tsetta cried as he addressed the court, apologizing for his actions and saying he never intended to do the victim any harm.

"I hope she has moved on and is able to have a better life," he had said.

On Thursday, Scott said she accepted that statement as a "genuine expression of remorse" and hoped Smith-Tsetta understood the harm and seriousness of his actions.

Scott also ordered that he be given access to rehabilitation programming while in custody.

"Good luck, Mr. Smith-Tsetta," she said, before leaving the courtroom.