The third day of Ben Levin’s sentencing hearing was taken over entirely by his lawyers Mr. Ruby and Mr. Chan who made submissions with the goal, as one could expect, to reduce his jail time by as much as possible. I don’t blame them – though in this case the majority of people would find their task morally repugnant, the lawyers still try to find holes in the Crown’s case and (at least theoretically) prevent injustice. Downplaying Ben Levin’s perversion is a natural strategy in such a difficult situation, especially when it is impossible to rebuke the facts, which the defendant admitted to be true. It is important to remind the readers that in the beginning everything was denied – Ben Levin pleaded not guilty and Clayton Ruby vowed to fight the charges and exonerate him from wrongdoing. Unfortunately, things were so bad that even a miracle worker couldn’t help.
Despite the efforts of the lawyers, to give credit to the judge, I should mention that she interrupted the defense a few times and challenged their reasoning on a few issues.
During day two the Crown shared with the court the puke-inducing instructions on child bondage coming from the twisted mind of the man who once was Educator #2 of Ontario. It seemed impossible to top that, but the defense managed to do it – they shared the letters of support for Ben Levin. It was beyond comprehension how people could write them. I can think only of two explanations. Maybe some had no idea what he did and supported him to keep their careers just in case if he returned to his old positions at OISE – those are either cowards or ignorant idiots. Those who defended him and knew what he did obviously didn’t care much about the harm he caused and to a great degree shared his mindset.
That confirms once again that the educational system in Canada is dominated by cowards, idiots and perverts, who don’t give a damn what kids or their parents think of them. The aggressive way, in which the new disgraceful sex curriculum is pushed in Ontario despite the vigorous protests of concerned parents, is just another example of how people like Levin still control the education.
Mr. Ruby started by summarizing the situation – Ben Levin pleaded guilty on three counts of sex offenses and the Crown asked for three and a half years in jail, while the defense proposes no more than 2 years. It is true that the offenses are serious, but since no real child was approached and assaulted, a two-year sentence would be more appropriate. Levin didn’t know who he was chatting with and we don’t know if he actually wanted to do all the things he wrote about or if he met that person in Amsterdam. Since a sentence is a punishment for deeds, which are proven beyond reasonable doubt, the sentence must be reduced. Besides, Levin is already 63 years old and jail won’t be a safe place for a person at his age and the type of offenses he committed.
The lawyer continued – Levin has made enormous contributions to the education system in Manitoba and Ontario. That has been confirmed in many letters from Levin’s supporters. Those are not excuses, but lenience is needed to assure proportionality and balanced retribution.
At this point Justice Heather McArthur interrupted Mr. Ruby with a question: if Levin has been so knowledgeable about education and he still got involved in those activities, shouldn’t this be considered an aggravating circumstance?
Ruby tried to counter her by saying that special knowledge doesn’t play a role in this case. After she repeated that as an educator Levin must be better aware of the consequences, Ruby stubbornly held his point that Levin had no special knowledge and didn’t know more than any other person.
The judge kept pushing and pointed out that you don’t need a Ph.D. degree to figure out that abusing children is bad – shouldn’t this be taken into consideration?
Mr. Ruby ended it with the assertion that Levin can’t be punished more than an ordinary guy. Then he moved to the topic of the support letters. His overall impression was that they made a clear point – the members of his family stated that there has never been a hint of bad behaviour; Levin has always been a good person, loving and caring father. This evaluation was seconded in the letters from friends and colleagues – they saw his public service as impeccable, with significant contribution to the education in Manitoba and Ontario. Some agreed that there was dark side to Levin, but there is also plenty of light.
Mr. Ruby found the supportive letters from Levin’s students the most impressive letter collection he has ever seen. They shared their great experiences with him as a professor and many wrote about their high hopes of his rehabilitation, so that he could work again.
(If such people comprise the intellectual elite of Ontario, is it any wonder that the province is a dump ruled by crooks and perverts?)
After he proved the enormous people’s love for Ben Levin, Mr. Ruby switched his attention to the evaluation presented in Dr. Gojer’s report. He emphasized the conclusion that Levin had a satisfying sexual relationship with his wife and never looked for similar activities with children.
The judge interrupted him again with the remark that Levin chatted with the forum members about sex with children and even met one of the members in Amsterdam. Ruby was adamant – there was no evidence of wrongdoing in his actions.
The judge countered with an example – if two people, who collect stamps and don’t know anything else about each other than the shared hobby, meet, it is reasonable to expect that they will discuss stamp collecting. In a similar way, two people, who know each other only through a forum that deals with sex with children, would most likely discuss that topic.
Mr. Ruby objected – those are speculations, the Crown should’ve proven any wrongdoing in Amsterdam beyond reasonable doubt, but they didn’t.
The judge replied that the issue is different – Dr. Gojer insisted that everything Levin did was to fantasize, but the meeting could be used to challenge that conclusion. Though he didn’t change his report, he said that the meeting was disturbing.
Mr. Ruby then said that we don’t know what was discussed at the meeting; it didn’t move Levin beyond the realm of fantasy and no child was present, that’s why Dr. Gojer didn’t change his opinion. It is important to make a distinction regarding the spectrum of activities – from fantasy to real actions. Dr. Gojer had an excellent insight in the mind of the offender. The incest materials are aggravating, but they are still fantasies. The doctor thinks that Levin is a low risk to re-offend and there is no evidence that he will do it again. During the interviews, Levin has shown an excellent emotional insight into his behaviour and he is remorseful. He has never abused his wife and daughters and supports his family and there is no evidence of hands-on offenses. Dr. Gojer recognized the concerns of the Crown about possible real abuse, but concluded that Levin is low risk. Besides, he developed his attraction to children late in life – he started with general sex chat and then moved to child pornography. He took responsibility for his action, but it is still important to note that everything was just fantasy.
Here the judge made another remark – but Levin counselled someone to abuse a child sexually not knowing if he was communicating with a real person. If the woman was real, a real kid could’ve been hurt.
As expected, Mr. Ruby said again that everything was still fantasy.
The judge: but still, that could’ve been an 8-year old girl at the other end.
Mr. Ruby: you need significant harm to a real person to apply that reasoning.
The judge: in the Fisher case (quoted the day before by the Crown) the fantasy defense was rejected in similar circumstances. Here we have a situation, where Levin’s recklessness is very severe.
After a recess, Mr. Ruby continued with a discussion of the Amsterdam meeting. It is true that it was one step further in Levin’s activities, but not significant because no child was present. That was the opinion of Dr. Gojer. Moreover, even the chats were not that important.
The judge interrupted him: but the chats were all about sex.
Mr. Ruby disagreed: not all of them were about sex.
The judge: I didn’t see any evidence to the contrary. None was presented to me.
Mr. Ruby: some of those chats were on Yahoo. The meeting happened by chance – both were passing through Amsterdam. There was no evidence that anything bad happened – the man and his daughter were interviewed by the police in England and his house was searched. No wrongdoing was found. The Crown didn’t mention that during the cross-examination. It is speculative to assume that it was anything more than passing meeting of two people engaged in fantasies. The same applies to Levin’s phone chats – many people engage in phone fantasies. The doctor mentioned in the report that everything was like a play – fantasies must be interesting to keep people’s attention. He also said there that Levin was remorseful, but the Crown didn’t cross-examine him on that.
The remorse is important to bring up, because there is case law about child pornography in relation to the self-awareness of the accused. There are cases of rationalization, when the offenders don’t find anything wrong with liking children.
The judge noted that Dr. Gojer covered the issue of rationalization in Levin’s report.
Mr. Ruby replied that in the case that the doctor quoted the accused clung to his wrong beliefs, while Levin realized that he was wrong. That’s important when considering the sentence; it deserves certain leniency. It is also important to consider his standing in the community – he paid an enormous price for his wrongdoing. He was suspended from his professor’s position. While he was employed, he used to give 4-5 speeches yearly, manage a dozen research projects, etc. All of that disappeared and so did his income; he didn’t want to take salary without working. His name and research was removed from the website of the University of Toronto.
He was shamed publically. The Toronto Sun published negative articles about him. Comments on Facebook and other sites were calling for him to rot in jail, to be hanged, etc. This shows a severe level of shaming and condemnation. Hundreds of angry letters were sent calling him a monster and linking him to the school sex education curriculum – this is stigmatization. All that should be considered – he is responsible for his actions, but the public attacks shouldn’t be ignored. There have been restrictions proposed on his use of phone or internet – that is to be expected, but an academic still needs access to those, otherwise he will be in exile. There should be a balance in the restrictions.
Then Mr. Ruby noted that because of the low number of child pornography images, which Levin possessed, it would be fair to sentence him to the mandatory minimum of 90 days on that count, instead of 6 months. After that he attempted to use the latest decision of the Supreme Court, which struck down the mandatory minimum sentence for possession of firearms. In Levin’s case the minimum is imposed for relatively low-impact offenses, which could increase the standard for other offenders in the future.
After lunch Mr. Ruby continued his attempts to lower the sentence. The sentence for making child pornography should be reduced as well, because Levin wrote a text, which came from his imagination, as opposed to pictures, where real children are abused.
The judge interrupted him: didn’t Dr. Gojer say that written child pornography may expose children to harm if someone follows through?
Naturally, Mr. Ruby had the answer: it still involves less harm. Besides, he wrote only one short story, which is less than what has been seen in other cases – another man received 15 months for a similar offense, but he wrote many more stories.
The judge: what about the sadistic element of the story? Doesn’t it add complications? Shouldn’t we denounce more literature with sadistic treatment of children? That’s common sense – such approach would deter from further offenses.
Mr. Ruby didn’t reply to that and only stated that the 2 years that the defense is seeking should be more than enough to deter and punish him for everything; 3 and a half years would be way too much.
That ended his portion of the submissions and Mr. Chan took over. He stated that though the offenses are serious, they should be placed in context. A person who indulges in rich fantasies is much less likely to engage in action.
The judge noted again: but what if the mother that Levin was communicating with were real and followed his advice, thus hurting the child? He was lucky she was not real, but a police officer. Wouldn’t this make a difference?
After Mr. Chan replied that Levin considered many members of the chat to be fake, he and the judge continued discussing the issue of fantasy and reality in Levin’s online interactions, with Mr. Chan insisting that everything was fantasy.
Following a short recess, Mr. Chan came up with a new twist in the submission – he repeated that the whole sentence should be no longer than 2 years, with some of it served concurrently. The reason is that most of the offenses were committed at the same time and were similar in nature. Even the harm done in each case was similar. The punishment had the same societal interest – defending children from exploitation is the goal of each of the jail times imposed. Besides, he mentioned again, creating child pornography here applies to text; there is no real child exploitation as in movie making.
The judge objected that counselling to commit a sex crime has a different societal interest. There is also a problem with metrics – two of the offenses involve two different police officers. There are also two different (though fictional) children involved. That makes the proposal of the defense difficult to accept.
Mr. Chan noted that there are some differences, but the actions of Levin are reasonably similar.
Then the discussion moved to probation and future restrictions. He will be expected to use the internet only under supervision. Levin will be restricted from contacts with children and banned from visiting places with children, though the judge noted that there should be some exceptions, if he goes somewhere with his grandchildren.
Mr. Chan disagreed with some of the restrictions. The offences committed didn’t involve any children, so limiting Levin’s contacts with children is unreasonable. He is not a risk. There were several cases involving hands-on offenders of children, where the court imposed mild restrictions. Levin hasn’t committed any real offenses against children.
The submission of the defense was followed by a few objections of the Crown. They disagreed that the offenses committed by Levin were similar; they were not even committed at the same time but over a period of time. Even the societal impact is different – possessing child pornography benefits the user, while making it harms children.
Finally, Ben Levin took the stand for a short statement. With an emotional and trembling voice he said that he was very sorry for his actions. He participated in activities that harmed children his actions ruined his career and he was ashamed of that. He has already started to work hard on changing himself and has sought help. He will try to do everything he can to repair the damage he caused.
Justice Heather McArthur had the last word – she announced that she would announce the sentence and her reasons for judgment on May 29.
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