Sentencing in the case of Melvin Koroluk, who pleaded guilty in December 2012 to abducting a child under the age of 16, has been delayed until April 9 so Madam Justice C.L. Dawson can review new submissions by the Crown and defence.
Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence. The defence requested a two-year conditional sentence to be served in the community.
During a sentencing hearing at Court of Queen’s Bench March 8, Koroluk admitted to an agreed statement of facts that on July 6, 2011, he lured the then-10-year-old girl into his car at the Yorkton fairgrounds during Exhibition and drove her to an isolated area north of the city. There, she managed to escape from the car through a window.
A short time later, a concerned citizen, who saw the victim, phoned police and constables were able to retrieve the girl.
A few days later, while with her mother in Yorkton, the girl spotted Koroluk. The mother called police and the then-57-year-old suspect was arrested.
On Friday, the Crown, represented by Darren Grindle submitted several exhibits including, a video, a transcript from a preliminary inquiry, a number of photographs and six pieces of case law for the judge’s consideration. Also before the judge were a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements from both the victim and her mother.
The impetus of Grindle’s submissions was to demonstrate just how remote and isolated the area was where Koroluk took the young girl and to establish that a custodial sentence was “more or less the norm for abduction cases.”
The defence, led by Dave Rusnak, countered with three letters of reference, explained that by not objecting to the preliminary hearing transcript being entered the defence was not admitting to some of the elements of testimony given by the victim and that the case law presented bore little similarity to the circumstances of the case before the Court.
Following testimony by RCMP Cst. Robert Ritz describing in detail the route Koroluk and the girl took on the day as recreated on the submitted video, Dawson called an adjournment to review the new evidence.
After the adjournment, the judge questioned Koroluk—as required by the Criminal Code—as to whether his guilty plea was voluntary, that he understood that it meant he was admitting to the essential elements of the charge and that he understood the potential consequences he could face.
Koroluk answered in the affirmative and Dawson accepted his plea.
She said the only evidence she would not consider with respect to sentencing was a portion of the preliminary hearing transcript in which the girl recounted the facts as she saw them and a portion of the pre-sentence report in which the mother was asked what she thought an appropriate sentence would be.
In arguing for a two-year prison term, Grindle referenced case law that upheld the principle of sentencing that in cases of child abduction the primary consideration is renunciation of the crime.
He focused on the aggravating circumstances: the age of the victim; that the girl was a complete stranger to Koroluk; the remote and isolated nature of the area to which he took her; the fact that after she escaped he did not tell anyone she was out there alone; the unresolved questions of what his intentions were if she had not escaped and what might have been the ultimate outcome; and that if it had not been for a chance meeting, the crime may never have been solved.
The prosecutor also summarized the contents of the victim impact statements calling the situation “every parent’s worst nightmare.” He said the girl continues to bear psychological scars including anger, fear, distrust of adults and degraded performance in school.
Rusnak argued the circumstances of his client’s case were unique and the case law had little bearing given in those decisions there had been indications of premeditation, prior criminal activity and the duration of the crimes had been of significantly greater length.
He said he did not want to downplay the seriousness of the offence calling it a “substantial, significant, dangerous error of judgment,” but argued mitigating circumstances should not rule out the possibility of a conditional sentence.
The factors he outlined included: the brief duration of the incident (less than 15 minutes); the fact the girl was not physically harmed; Koroluk’s lack of criminal record; that he pleaded guilty sparing the victim from having to testify at trial; that he has very good family support; that he is truly remorseful; and that for the past 18 months he has fully complied with a very strict set of release conditions.
The defence also suggested Koroluk could face significant danger in prison from his fellow inmates given the nature of his offence and his complete lack of familiarity with the correctional system.
In his own defence, Koroluk said he accepted full responsibility, but showed little insight into his actions.
“I don’t know what I was thinking that day,” he said.
He apologized to the girl and her family and promised the judge he would do “whatever the Court deems me to do to become a better person.”
Dawson called the situation before her “very difficult” saying it would require “thoughtful consideration to weigh the factors I need to weigh.”
She said she knew the resolution to the case must seem like a very long time for all parties involved, but “in the circumstances, I would be remiss to attempt to proceed today.”
A publication ban remains in effect to protect the identity of the girl.