Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Graham James faces new sexual assault charges after arrest in Toronto Add to ...

He was once a top junior hockey coach and talent-spotter, guiding young players into the NHL.

His case shocked the hockey world when he was convicted of molesting two of those players and later sparked outrage when it was revealed that he received a full pardon for his crimes - prompting the government to change the rules - and set up a new life in Mexico, far from the unwanted attention of the media and the public.

More related to this story

But on Wednesday, Graham James returned to face fresh charges in the city where he began his coaching career more than three decades ago and where, police allege, he committed his first crimes.

Following an agreement with police, Mr. James arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport shortly before 7 a.m., where he was met by officers who flew with him to Winnipeg. As of Wednesday evening, he was still in custody. A bail hearing had not been set.

Mr. James faces nine new charges. They range from his time as a junior coach in the St. James area of Winnipeg in the late 1970s, to the early 1990s, when he coached in the WHL.

During the 1980s and 1990s, he helmed the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos, the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Calgary Hitmen, a franchise he also partly owned.

Five of the new charges are believed to relate to Theo Fleury, the retired Calgary Flames great who went public with his allegations against Mr. James in a candid memoir last year. Reached by phone in Toronto, he expressed relief that his former coach was in police custody.

"It's obviously one step closer to the goal we set a long time ago. I hope sooner rather than later this chapter of my life can be where it belongs - and that's in the past," he said. "I'm going to put my trust in the justice system that they will do what needs to be done."

Mr. James's illustrious career came to an abrupt halt in 1996 when NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who had been a star with the Broncos, brought charges of sexual abuse against him. Mr. James was ultimately convicted of molesting Mr. Kennedy and another unnamed player, and served a 21-month stint in jail. In 2007, he quietly received a pardon.

Some time afterward, he moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. When reporters tracked him to an apartment there earlier this year, he appeared to be working for an Internet marketing company.

Mr. Fleury filed a complaint with Winnipeg police early this year. Their investigation turned up additional complainants and, earlier this month, officers issued a warrant for his arrest. Mr. James's lawyer said it was always his client's intention to turn himself in, sparing Canada the legal time it would have taken to have him arrested and extradited.

However, he declined to say how long he had been in Mexico and where he had been living just before he returned to Canada.

"He was leading his life and working, and when he became aware of the investigation, he informed the Crown's office, through his counsel, that if they wished to speak with him, he would co-operate," Evan Roitenberg said. "Mr. James came back voluntarily, paid for his ticket back to Winnipeg."

Mr. Kennedy, for his part, said he knew his abuser had planned to return to Canada, but that it still felt odd to hear the news. Even odder, he said, was where he heard it. He was in a car, somewhere between Swan River and Flin Flon, driving to a rural school to talk to 37 children about abuse and respect.

"Here we were, driving to a school to deliver the message - with enthusiasm ... I have to admit there are mixed emotions. It's one of those things that happens when somebody is abused and not feeling safe. Even though I've moved on, there's still a piece of that there," he said. "But tonight I know Graham's definitely locked up in jail and he can't hurt anyone and that feels good."

Mr. Roitenberg and Winnipeg police declined to detail the exact charges against Mr. James, but the Winnipeg Free Press reported that they consisted of sexual assault, three counts of gross indecency, indecent assault, sexual touching and another charge.

With a report from Allan Maki

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular