Dan­ger­ous of­fender des­ig­na­tion evolves

Range of crimes el­i­gi­ble for dan­ger­ous sta­tus ex­pands

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Barb Pa­cho­lik

REGINA — The re­ports span decades; they are uni­form in one crit­i­cal word: “De­nied.” Les­lie Harold Klassen’s case has been re­viewed an­nu­ally by the Na­tional Pa­role Board (NPB). And for more than 30 years, the de­ci­sion hasn’t changed: Klassen is too dan­ger­ous to be free.

Rarely has he ac­tu­ally been present to hear the NPB’s pro­nounce­ment. For years, Klassen has waived his right to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in the re­views, pas­sively protest­ing the way his case is man­aged. Or per­haps, he has sim­ply re­signed him­self to the an­swer.

“I have taken the po­si­tion that there is no point in see­ing the board. Given that their pri­mary man­date is pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic, they can­not re­lease some­one who is dan­ger­ous without vi­o­lat­ing that man­date,” Klassen wrote in a let­ter re­cently sent to the Leader-Post.

The pen­sioner pris­oner is Saskatchew­an’s long­est-serv­ing, legally des­ig­nated dan­ger­ous of­fender. He was 33 years old when his fate was de­cided in a Saska­toon court­room. He’d al­ready spent many years be­hind bars to that point, but he never en­vi­sioned how many more were ahead of him. Des­ig­nated a dan­ger­ous sex­ual of­fender (DSO) in May 1977 (the same year the law changed to elim­i­nate the DSO and re­place it with the cur­rent dan­ger­ous of­fender, or DO, law), Klassen was or­dered to serve what was then called “pre­ven­ta­tive de­ten­tion,” a pre­cur­sor to to­day’s in­de­ter­mi­nate sen­tence. The length of the open-ended penalty hinges on what has been for Klassen an elu­sive, favourable de­ci­sion by the pa­role board.

Cou­pled with the time he served prior to the out­come of his DSO hear­ing, Klassen is in his 38th year of continuous im­pris­on­ment.

In re­sponse to an in­quiry from the Leader-Post 15 years ago, Klassen wrote, “what I did to my vic­tims was not fair or right.” But he also won­dered about the fair­ness of his own sit­u­a­tion. “I see other in­mates in here with much more se­ri­ous crimes than my­self . . . and they are serv­ing on av­er­age fixed sen­tences of five to seven years. So you see, treat­ment or no, good be­hav­iour or no, at least there is an end to their sen­tences.”

To­day, the 66-yearold still looks for­ward to free­dom — some­day. But his words also hint at his doubts that the day is any nearer. “I would like to give it (re­lease) a try at some point,” he says in a re­cent let­ter. “There are sadly a lot who have given up hope and are just pass­ing time wait­ing to die.

“I, and oth­ers, be­lieve that these sen­tences should be re­viewed every five years by a judge to make sure ev­ery­thing is as it should be legally, ad­min­is­tra­tively, con­sti­tu­tion­ally, etc.”

There are some who would just as well pre­fer Klassen and many other DOs rot in prison, but the fact re­mains that with close to 40 years be­hind him, Klassen has done more time than many first-de­gree mur­der­ers serv­ing life.

Ac­cord­ing to his pa­role re­ports, Klassen be­gan his “sex­u­ally de­viant acts” at age 13 when

On Tues­day, the third story in Worst of the Worst se­ries ex­am­ines the in­creas­ing num­ber of dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers.

he was con­victed of in­de­cent ex­po­sure and sent to re­form school. He built a lengthy record as a flasher and ex­hi­bi­tion­ist, rack­ing up about 30 charges for in­de­cent ex­po­sure and per­form­ing in­de­cent acts in pub­lic places. But in time, he went from an­noy­ance to threat, and his record grew to in­clude three counts of in­de­cently as­sault­ing fe­males. In 1967 he served his first prison term, three years for a break-in in which he ren­dered his fe­male vic­tim un­con­scious by hit­ting her on the head with a vase.

Klassen’s ul­ti­mate un­do­ing was a charge of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence caus­ing the death of a 15-year-old girl in 1974. Klassen al­ways main­tained her death was an ac­ci­dent that oc­curred in the midst of the two hav­ing sex when she fell back­ward and struck her head on con­crete. Klassen, who had been drink­ing at the time, buried the vic­tim in a snow­drift. The court ac­cepted his guilty plea to neg­li­gence, a lesser of­fence than the mur­der charge he faced orig­i­nally, and he was sen­tenced to six years in prison. Fol­low­ing the sen­tenc­ing, the Crown made a DSO ap­pli­ca­tion, re­ly­ing on Klassen’s lengthy record and a psy­chi­atric re­port that said: “If you were at large and un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, it is prob­a­ble that sooner rather than later you would en­gage again in sex­ual acts in­volv­ing vi­o­lence to the point of homi­cide.”

The irony is, Klassen might have been bet­ter off had he pleaded guilty to mur­der. Back then, mur­der­ers serv­ing life terms were el­i­gi­ble to seek pa­role af­ter 10 years.

Even the pa­role board has won­dered about the du­ra­tion of his time be­hind bars, but it has largely held Klassen to blame. Pa­role re­ports de­scribe an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized of­fender who, in the face of re­ject­ing pro­grams and coun­selling, re­mains “an un­treated, dan­ger­ous sex of­fender.”

“You seem to be con­tent work­ing in the in­sti­tu­tion. You gen­er­ally stay to your­self and, al­though you have said you would like to be re­leased, you do not trust the sys­tem and are not pre­pared to take the nec­es­sary pro­grams to deal with your ma­jor risk fac­tor,” the board wrote as re­cently as Fe­bru­ary this year.

In his let­ter, Klassen says he wanted proof the pro­grams were spe­cific to his needs and would be of some ben­e­fit. “All I get from them now is ‘re­fused pro­grams’ which I did not do. I only wanted to be sure any­thing I did would be ben­e­fi­cial and not harm­ful.”

Asked if he believes he’s served enough time, Klassen de­clines to an­swer. “We do not get to de­cide the length of our sen­tences for our crimes. We can only hope the judge will im­pose a sen­tence pro­por­tion­ate to the se­ri­ous­ness of the crimes,” he says.

Sex of­fend­ers tar­geted

Af­ter Klassen, five years passed be­fore Saskatchew­an’s courts des­ig­nated their first dan­ger­ous of­fender un­der the cur­rent law. De­clared a DO in 1982, se­rial rapist Daniel Christo­pher Probe, like the 15 oth­ers who would fol­low him in the 1990s, was a sex of­fender. The oth­ers in­cluded James “Max” Yanoshewsk­i, con­victed in a Regina court­room of sex­u­ally and phys­i­cally as­sault­ing eight women and girls; Louis Bar­ron — also known as Brian Ri­es­tad, Al­lan War­ren Hansen and about 50 other aliases — who passed him­self off as a preacher in small-town Saskatchew­an and preyed on chil­dren; and Saska­toon’s Keom Sung Lee, who sex­u­ally as­saulted a 19-mon­thold baby girl and her mother.

The pat­tern of declar­ing pri­mar­ily sex of­fend­ers as dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers con­tin­ued un­til 2002. That year, Ja­cob Leroy An­drew Green, a 25-year-old Moose Jaw man who had wreaked vengeance with a knife, be­came a DO af­ter try­ing to kill his for­mer girl­friend and her par­ents.

Even af­ter Green, most of the DOs were re­peat sex of­fend­ers. While the law had al­ways al­lowed for non-sex­ual, vi­o­lent of­fend­ers to also be de­clared DOs, they were rarely the tar­gets, reflecting, in part, the fact that sex of­fend­ers are tra­di­tion­ally some of the tough­est of­fend­ers to suc­cess­fully treat.

Shift in late 2000s

In the mid-to late-2000s, de­fence lawyers be­gan no­tice a shift in who was join­ing the ranks of the DOs — re­peat of­fend­ers with long records pri­mar­ily for prop­erty and driv­ing crimes and breach­ing court or­ders, but dot­ted with vi­o­lent of­fences.

“The bar has been steadily low­ered, to the point now where it seems that if you’ve got a crim­i­nal record for some vi­o­lence, cou­pled with un­usual be­hav­iour or be­hav­iour that hap­pens to make other peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able, that’s some­how enough,” con­tends Regina de­fence lawyer Bob Hrycan.

“I think it’s de­vel­oped to the point now where the dec­la­ra­tions are be­ing made in ques­tion­able cir­cum­stances,” he adds.

Af­ter Green in 2002, Mervin Otto was the first per­son suc­cess­fully de­clared a dan­ger­ous of­fender in this prov­ince strictly for non-sex­ual, vi­o­lent crimes. The 47-year-old Saska­toon man had orig­i­nally avoided a DO des­ig­na­tion, un­til the Court of Ap­peal over­turned a lower court de­ci­sion in May 2006. He had a long record, nearly 80 con­vic­tions, mostly for prop­erty crimes but also a num­ber of rob­beries — the worst of which was a hatchet at­tack on an el­derly woman — prompt­ing the DO ap­pli­ca­tion. The rul­ing seemed to open a le­gal door, and since then nine men who are like­wise chronic cus­tomers of the jus­tice sys­tem have stepped over the dan­ger­ous of­fender thresh­old.

Judge pon­ders di­rec­tion

Among those men is David J. Daniels, who was de­clared a dan­ger­ous of­fender in Saska­toon af­ter two home in­va­sions. He went to the apart­ment of two ac­quain­tances and threat­ened them with a screw­driver and a bro­ken beer bot­tle in a bid to get money for his drug habit. He re­turned less than two days later, men­ac­ing them again with a screw­driver, and forced one of the men to tie up the other. Daniels’ record stretches to al­most 80 of­fences, mostly for prop­erty crimes but with 16 for vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing rob­beries and as­saults that left his vic­tims with bruises and mi­nor cuts. It was suf­fi­cient to es­tab­lish a pat­tern and threat to so­ci­ety as re­quired by the DO law.

Re­cently, while hear­ing Daniels’ ap­peal, Jus­tice Ge­orgina Jack­son pon­dered the di­rec­tion of the dan­ger­ous of­fender law that, since Klassen, has re­sulted in 48 des­ig­na­tions in this prov­ince.

She didn’t ques­tion that Daniels met the DO cri­te­ria or that his crimes were rep­re­hen­si­ble, but Jack­son won­dered if the court must also con­sider “de­grees of vi­o­lence” in deter­min­ing if a DO des­ig­na­tion and in­de­ter­mi­nate sen­tence is rea­son­able. Crown pros­e­cu­tor Tony Gerein replied that there is a thresh­old, and Daniels had crossed it. The court has yet to rule on Daniels’ case or the ap­peals of sev­eral other men de­clared dan­ger­ous of­fend­ers in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances.

If, as Klassen sug­gests, be­ing tagged as a DO en­sures an up­hill climb be­fore the pa­role board and those who have fol­lowed him in re­cent years could be fac­ing decades in prison, lawyers such as Hrycan are won­der­ing if the right peo­ple are be­ing locked up in­def­i­nitely.

“It’s a re­ally un­sat­is­fac­tory state of af­fairs. It’s the pen­du­lum ef­fect, where we went from hardly ever see­ing these ap­pli­ca­tions to the point where they’re al­most rou­tine. When some­body’s fac­ing a true life sen­tence, that shouldn’t be the case,” he says.

“At some point I think we’re go­ing to see the pen­du­lum be­gin to cor­rect. At some point, some judge is go­ing to say, ‘I’ve had enough.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.