A man who repeatedly sexually assaulted two underage brothers in Agassiz in the 1980s was sentenced to four years in jail in Chilliwack provincial court on Thursday.
Because of poor hearing, 68-year-old Don Putt sat not in the prisoners’ box but in leg shackles next to his lawyer Martin Finch in courtroom 205, wearing just blue socks on his feet, jail-issued orange jumpsuit and black-rimmed glasses.
Finch had asked Judge Wendy Young to sentence Putt to two years less a day in provincial custody, in part because the elderly man’s previous crime garnered international media attention leading him to fear for his safety if sentenced to federal time.
Crown asked for four years.
Putt was in his 30s when he befriended neighbours in Agassiz with two boys, D.W. and J.W. The boys babysat for him and worked in his raspberry and corn fields in the 1980s.
He groomed D.W. and sexual activity began when the boy was just 13. After 18 months, the teen put a stop to it and Putt moved on to his brother, J.W.
“Both boys were too young to consent to the sexual behaviour,” Young said in reading her decision.
While both victims, now in their 40s, said the sexual interactions were ongoing for extended periods of time, Putt admitted only to approximately 15 to 20 acts with each boy. He pleaded guilty and since the Crown could provide no concrete evidence of more, Judge Young could only go with the 15 to 20 number.
But she pointed out the number of times it happened was not particularly significant, rather it was the serious nature of the sexual acts that was important.
The sentencing hearing for Putt began back in May, at which time he addressed the court and J.W., who was present, saying he was “deeply sorry” for the ongoing sexual activity in the 1980s.
“Apology not accepted,” J.W. responded.
Numerous excerpts from J.W.’s victim impact statements read at the hearing in May were referenced by Young at sentencing decision on Oct. 19.
“He mourns the utter corruption of the innocence of his childhood,” Young said, later quoting J.W. directly: “He had me manipulated me into believing I was responsible for my own rape, even as it was occurring.”
Young agreed with Crown that a four-year sentence was suitable followed by a number of conditions, including a lifetime listing as a sex offender via the Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIRA).
While Putt’s early guilty plea and apparent remorse remained mitigating factors in sentencing, a number of disturbing elements in the pre-sentence report (PSR) led Young to the harsher federal sentence of four years.
Both Crown and Young pointed also to numerous “cognitive distortions” of Putt’s, such as downplaying or ignoring the pain he caused victims, and denying his sexual proclivities by, for example, telling the PSR interviewer that he doesn’t fantasize about underage males.
“Crown pointed out this is false,” Young said, pointing to his December 2016 conviction for child luring where he asked for naked photos of a 12-year-old boy.
Putt’s notoriety began when he was caught on video on Oct. 7, 2016 showing up at 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 Creep Catchers who posted the encounter on YouTube.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months. The subsequent publicity elicited J.W. and D.W. to come forward leading to the charges from the 1980s.
A former District of Kent alderman and respected member of the Agassiz community who was a member of various service clubs, the publicity that emerged in Canada, Australia and New Zealand means “his general infamy is now notorious,” according to his lawyer.
In custody for 216 days, Judge Young gave Putt the standard 1.5-to-one credit for time serves, meaning 324 days is deducted from his four-year sentence.
This isn’t the end of Putt’s troubles. He also faces a charge of gross indecency and one count of “indecent assault of a male on a male” (no longer in the criminal code) from the early 1970s in Abbotsford. To those charges he pleaded not guilty, but on May 23 he was found guilty by a judge in Abbotsford provincial court.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on that file on Nov. 29 in Abbotsford.