A Hockey Player’s Assault Sentence Was Postponed So It Wouldn’t Hurt His Internship
Coincidentally, the judge also played hockey and went to the same university.
Chance Macdonald and Justice Allan Letourneau. Photos Twitter/LinkedIn/St. Lawrence College
Update: Deloitte reached out to VICE over the weekend to say it only found out about Macdonald's conviction last week. The company says Macdonald is no longer a Deloitte employee.
The judge sentencing a Queen's University student and hockey player who assaulted a teenage girl at a house party delayed the man's sentence so that it wouldn't interfere with his summer internship.
Chance Macdonald, 22, pleaded guilty to common assault in April after he was initially charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement following a 2015 party. Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis said Macdonald's victim accepted the lesser plea in part because she didn't want to face a trial and the possibility of being disbelieved in court.
According to the Kingston Whig-Standard, Macdonald, then a player on Gananoque Islanders Junior C hockey team, wasn't sentenced until last week because his lawyer argued a criminal record would ruin his four-month internship, which he needed to continue on as a Queen's business student. Despite the Crown's protests that the victim deserved closure, Justice Allan Letourneau sided with the defence and waited until last week to hand down Macdonald's sentence of 88 days of intermittent jail on weekends and two years of probation.
Comments made by the judge throughout the proceedings and reported by the Whig-Standard suggest that he felt a large degree of empathy for Macdonald. Like Macdonald, Justice Letourneau graduated from Queen's and played hockey.
He said the plea deal was "the right way to go in all respects." He praised Macdonald on his excellence "in employment, in athletics, and in academics." He noted, "I played extremely high-end hockey and I know the mob mentality that can exist in that atmosphere." He told Macdonald he had significant confidence that "you will almost certainly never put yourself in this situation again," describing the assault as a "fork in the road."
On the flip side, most of Justice Letourneau's warnings to Macdonald seemed to focus on how the business student may have ruined his future prospects.
"It all could have come crashing down on you," he noted. Regarding the lesser assault plea, he said, "Good luck finding any meaningful employment with a sexual conviction on your record."
Since the case went public, an online petition calling for the Letourneau's removal from the bench has gained 2,000 signatures.
According to Macdonald's LinkedIn profile, he's a management consultant at Deloitte and a volunteer with Queen's Women in Leadership. He was formerly a teaching assistant.
The allegations against Macdonald relating to the initial sex assault and forcible confinement charges stem from a "rookie party" that took place at a house in Queen's student district.
The party, according to Crown Laarhuis, included an "initiation ceremony that includes getting the junior players laid."
One of the players allegedly invited the 16-year-old girl to the party, and though she was hesitant, she went with some friends.
At the party, the girl said she consensually made out with the boy who invited her, but was repeatedly asked by other guys there if she would participate in a threesome. At one point, Macdonald allegedly walked in on her and the boy she was with, and started talking about wanting to do cocaine and wanting to have a threesome. She reportedly told police she said "no" to a threesome.
Later, while she was upstairs with the boy who'd invited her, Macdonald came in with other team members, and allegedly forced her into a reclining position and tried to kiss her, which she tried to deflect. During this time, someone turned the lights off, and the girl said she felt someone's hand fondle her breasts under her shirt while she believes Macdonald pulled her pants down and groped her, the Whig-Standard reports.
One of the boys in the room—a teen—pulled out his penis and asked her for oral sex, she told police. She said Macdonald's weight—he was more than 200 pounds at the time and is six-foot-three—prevented her from getting away. Eventually, one of the girl's girlfriends walked in and turned on the lights, stopping the assault, but after the girl and her friend locked themselves in a bathroom, she said Macdonald walked in and forced himself on her friend, kissing her.
VICE reached out to Macdonald's defence attorney, Connie Baran-Gerez, and to the Gananoque Islanders but has not yet heard back.
Queen's University said in a statement sent to VICE that it was "extremely disheartened to learn that (Macdonald) is a Queen's student. The university understands and sympathizes with the emotions that people are expressing about this case."
The school said it is assessing whether or not Macdonald is a risk to the Queen's community, but the results of that assessment won't be made public due to privacy concerns.
Barb MacQuarrie, community director at Western University's Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children, told VICE the judge's handling of the case "smacks of an old boy's club."
"Somebody with a different background who the judge didn't relate to, I can't imagine that kind of leniency or consideration," she said, noting it's unlikely that a young man of colour who didn't play sports would have been treated the same.
Letourneau's comments praising Macdonald's athletic and academic prowess, and warnings about his future employment opportunities "really serve to intentionally or unintentionally minimize the seriousness of what actually took place," said MacQuarrie, who noted that the party's "initiation" tradition of getting rookies laid is a recipe for sexual violence.
"There's a lot of white male privilege at play," she said. "He's saying 'you wouldn't want to ruin your opportunities to have an affluent comfortable life.' He's not saying anything about 'you want to be a decent, upstanding, ethical citizen.'"
There was a "complete erasure of the victim," in Letourneau's sentencing, MacQuarrie said, because the focus was all on removing personal responsibility from Macdonald—e.g. the "mob mentality" justification—and consequences to his career.
Crown attorney Laarhuis requested the judge order Macdonald to refrain from speaking about the victim on social media and ask other peers to do the same. Justice Letourneau responded that while Macdonald's probation orders ban him from talking to or about the victim online, he didn't think he'd be able to compel him to ask others to do the same.
"We're not there yet," he said.
MacQuarrie said that was a lost opportunity to at least advise Macdonald to influence classmates who might be harassing the victim online.
"I think the judge was unable to think his way through to a point where this young man would stand up and be a positive role model for his peers," she said, adding the judge could have given Macdonald community service at an organization like White Ribbon Canada, a group that calls on men to fight violence against women.
MacQuarrie said the problem isn't that the judge considered impacts to Macdonald's future. The problem is he didn't send any messages about the seriousness of his crime and the impact on the victim. He didn't encourage him to be accountable for his actions, nor did he stress the importance of bystander intervention in situations like a house party.
"What the judge needed to be saying is how serious a violation of someone else's rights and body and spirit this was," she said. Instead, "the judge sent these messages: that you don't have a lot of personal responsibility for this. You've got yourself into a bit of a mess but we're gonna clean it up."
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