“Apology not accepted.”
That was the three-word response in Chilliwack provincial court Wednesday from the 41-year-old victim of Donald Putt who said told the man he was sorry for repeatedly sexually assaulting him as a teenager in Agassiz in the 1980s.
Over months and years when he was in his 30s, the now 67-year-old Putt repeatedly engaged in all manner of sexual activity with J.W. and before that his brother D.W. The boys’ family were neighbours of Putt. They did babysitting for him and worked in his raspberry and corn fields in the 1980s.
The former District of Kent alderman pleaded guilty April 18 to two counts of sexual assault from 1984 and 1986. Crown counsel is seeking four years in jail, Putt is asking the court for two years.
The sentencing hearing began but did not finish on May 10, and included many moments of drama involving Putt who was also convicted in 2016 and sentenced to six months for child luring in a notorious case caught on video by vigilante group Creep Catchers. Putt was caught in the Oct. 7 incident where he showed up to the Vedder Crossing McDonald’s to meet who he thought was a 12-year-old boy only to be met by members of the controversial vigilante group who posted the encounter on YouTube.
As Putt was led into the courtroom on Wednesday, J.W. – who was present with his partner, a friend and his mother – held up two large class photos of he and his brother, D.W., from the time of the sexual assaults. Putt met J.W.’s gaze but registered no emotion.
When he read his victim impact statement, J.W. wanted to again hold the photos up, something Putt’s lawyer Martin Finch objected to.
“A victim impact statement is one thing, showing photos of yourself at various times in your life is another,” Finch was heard saying after Judge Wendy Young paused the hearing so Crown and defence could discuss the photos. J.W. dropped the matter so as not to delay the hearing further.
In his five-page victim impact statement, J.W. said he was a vulnerable teenager already harshly bullied for being a homosexual in a small community in the 1980s.
“He had me manipulated me into believing I was responsible for my own rape, even as it was occurring,” he said. “The scars remain to this day.”
J.W. added that he didn’t even know his older brother was the target of Putt’s criminal sexual activity before him.
“I didn’t know and wouldn’t find out for years later that he had also been molested by Don Putt,” he said.
J.W. and D.W.’s mother also filed a victim impact statement, full of guilt she had for not realizing it was happening at the time and for discouraging J.W. from going to police 15 years ago.
“She won’t forgive herself for that blindness,” Crown Grant Lindsey told the court.
In his defence, Finch painted a picture of a professional, engaged community member who served as an elected alderman from 1987 to 1993 in Agassiz.
“This accused is, but for these acts, a good citizen,” Finch said.
He addressed Putt’s early guilty plea along with a desire to take responsibility for his actions.
Finch pointed to the devastating effects the case has had on him personally, as the current charges stemmed from the media reports following the Creep Catchers video from October 2016. That led to local news reports, which spread regionally. The case then received international attention, particularly because of the time he spent living in Australia and Thailand. He lived in a Melbourne suburb for approximately eight years and had an online listing where he offered accommodation to travellers.
Finch did not complete his review of case law in court May 10, so a further date will be confirmed for that on May 16. Before the end of the day Wednesday, Putt stood up to issue an apology to the victims, to their families and to his own family from whom he has mostly become estranged.
“I am deeply sorry,” he said, in part.
J.W. responded that the apology was not accepted. As Putt was being led away he repeated the sentiment much louder to ensure he was heard.
Even at the conclusion of this case, Putt’s court troubles are not over as he faces a trial May 23 and 24 for one count of gross indecency and one count of “indecent assault of a male on a male” (no longer in the criminal code) from July 4, 1973 in Abbotsford.