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Toronto York University rapist sentenced to eight years in prison

A York University graduate who returned to prowl a campus dormitory in search of sleeping first-year students to rape will spend the next eight years behind bars.

Mr. Justice Ian MacDonnell of the Ontario Superior Court said that trusting adolescents launching their adult lives have a right to be protected from "predators" such as the defendant, Daniel Katsnelson, 27.

"The vulnerability of young women whose bedrooms Mr. Katsnelson invaded was not unique to them," Judge MacDonnell said. "It is shared by thousands of 17- and 18-year-olds who leave home every year to attend colleges and universities across the country. It is very much in the public interest that college and university campuses be places of safety and that they be perceived to be places of safety."

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During their two-hour rampage during frosh week in 2007, Mr. Katsnelson and a friend, Justin Connort, crept into several darkened bedrooms. "Do you want to get lucky with a couple of Jewish guys?" Mr. Katsnelson asked one of the victims before raping her.

Dapper and prematurely grey, Mr. Katsnelson cast his eyes down briefly as Judge MacDonnell said he was passing a substantial sentence to reflect the impact on the victims and the sensibilities of all university and college students.

"It is significant that the offences were not crimes of opportunity, but rather the product of a premeditated trespass into a university dormitory," the judge said. "[Mr.]Katsnelson and [Mr.]Connort regarded the teenagers living there as sexual prey.

"As they entered their first week of university studies in September, 2007, away from the protection of their families, they were standing on the threshold of the rest of their lives," he said. "Tragically, what they encountered was a pair of predators who, I have no doubt, recognized the vulnerability of young women in that situation and made a conscious decision to work in concert to exploit it."

Judge MacDonnell said women were traumatized even more because Mr. Katsnelson did not use condoms, raising the possibility that the victims might become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease.

"The various rooms [Mr.]Katsnelson and [Mr.]Connort broke into that morning were the homes of these young women while they were at university," he said. "The violation of their privacy was heightened by the fact that both were raped by one complete stranger while a second one watched."

Outside court, Crown counsel Andrew Locke told reporters: "The judge sent a very clear message that sexual predators who are going to operate on university campuses are going to be dealt with fairly but firmly."

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On the eve of the trial last January, Mr. Katsnelson pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm. In a statement he read to the court in March, the defendant implored his victims and the university to forgive him.

Mr. Katsnelson had no prior criminal record. The judge described him as a former camp counsellor and small businessman who had been brought up well in a middle-class home.

"The incongruity between Mr. Katsnelson's previous good character and the offences he committed on Sept. 7, 2007, is startling," Judge MacDonnell said.

The judge said that both of his victims remained seriously traumatized by what they went through, and the psychological scars may remain forever.

Mr. Connort, who played a lesser role in the rampage, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to three years in prison.

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