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Man freed after year in custody for assault in dorm

A man convicted of breaking into 18 rooms at a University of Toronto dormitory and sexually assaulting a student was freed in Toronto yesterday after a plan to send him to live with his mother in the Bahamas failed.

Cameron Ratelle, who is deaf and suffers from developmental delays and alcohol addiction, was released after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that because Mr. Ratelle served one year in presentence custody, he should not be jailed.

Since the Bahamian government has refused to allow Mr. Ratelle into the country, Mr. Justice Peter Grossi said, he had no choice but to release the 23-year-old, although no plan was in place to supervise him around the clock.

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Mr. Ratelle pleaded guilty in August to 11 counts of sexual assault, forcible confinement, breaking and entering and possession of property stolen from students in the U of T dorm.

He was on probation for sexual assault when he broke into the St. George Street facility at around 6 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2001, and went from room to room.

Judge Grossi calculated that a sentence of two years less a day was appropriate for the offences, and gave Mr. Ratelle two-for-one credit for his 363 days of "dead time." He placed Mr. Ratelle on three years probation and ordered him to stay away from the U of T.

Mr. Ratelle was born in the Bahamas but became a Canadian after being adopted as a baby by a Canadian, Carolyn Ratelle, the court heard.

Ms. Ratelle makes her home in the Bahamas, where her son has the theoretical right to live.

She came to Toronto in August and told Judge Grossi that she was willing to take her son home and provide him with 24-hour supervision.

The judge agreed to the plan on the condition the defence could prove the Bahamian government would grant Mr. Ratelle entry.

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But defence lawyer Jim Ermacora told the judge yesterday that the Bahamian government has refused Ms. Ratelle's requests and "is not even returning her phone calls."

Mr. Ermacora proposed that Mr. Ratelle live with his maternal grandmother in Waterdown, Ont., for "a couple of days" until there is a vacancy in a structured group home in Toronto.

The lawyer told the court that he expected a space to become available this week.

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