STRATFORD — In an abrupt courtroom twist Thursday, a former OPP officer facing numerous sex charges involving girls pleaded guilty to two charges just as a four-week trial was to begin.
But, in an unusual turn, a hearing expected to last two weeks is unfolding because, the man’s lawyer said outside court, the Crown doesn’t believe the guilty admissions are the full story.
John Paul Stone pleaded not guilty to 17 sex charges as jury selection began earlier this week. But he changed his mind and entered guilty pleas to a reduced set of charges — one count each of sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching involving two victims.
The other 15 charges were dismissed by the Crown. Stone, 56, already pleaded guilty to two charges of trafficking methamphetamine.
“He did things that he’s prepared to admit to and he changed his mind at the last moment because since he was first charged he’s actually gone through trauma counselling for the first time in his life and he wanted to take responsibility for what he’s done,” Stone’s lawyer, Margaret Osadet, said outside court.
“I’m proud of him.”
Osadet said that Stone, a former Listowel resident, was “habitually abused” and “probably raped 700 times” between the ages of nine and 15. Osadet said her client, speaking to police about the abuse during an investigation in 2012, “opened up that wound” and soon after he became addicted to meth.
Even though Justice Ian F. Leach dismissed the jury as they were preparing for a month-long trial, testimony continued later Thursday in the rare hearing expected to last two weeks.
“They (the Crown) believe there’s more to it than he’s prepared to admit,” Osadet said of her client. “So now we’re litigating whether or not the Crown can prove what they believe occurred versus what Mr. Stone says happened.”
Both complainants and several of their peers are testifying.
Court heard from one witness Thursday afternoon, who testified she first met Stone during the summer of 2014 when she was 13 years old and became addicted to meth after receiving the drug from him.
She alleged during one of her drug-related visits with Stone he touched her “butt cheek” with his hand, which caused her to become frightened and flee the scene.
“I was just scared, upset,” she said.
But she struggled to recall many specific details of her encounters with Stone during cross-examination.
A publication ban protects the identity of all complainants and witnesses, along with any information that could identify them.
The Crown and defence will continue calling witnesses and presenting evidence that will affect Stone’s sentence over the next two weeks.
Osadet said she will ask for a sentence of no more than two years less a day behind bars.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll be asking for two years less a day, but it would allow Mr. Stone to be admitted to a hospital to continue his path to healing,” she said.
Stone started receiving trauma counselling after he was first arrested and charged back in 2015, Osadet said. Stone was arrested and charged three times — twice in 2015 and once the following year. He initially faced more than 40 drug- and sex-related charges, including sexual assault, luring, indecent exposure and sexual interference. The sex offences are alleged to have occurred between 2012 and 2015.
The Crown is expected to ask for five to seven years in prison, Osadet said.
Assistant Crown attorney Noelle Brady wouldn’t comment when asked outside court what sentence she will recommend for Stone. Asked if she was surprised by his last-minute guilty plea, she replied: “It’s evolved” and added “things are fluid.”http://lfpress.com/news/local-news/ex-o ... ex-chargeshttp://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/20 ... t-to-begin