Ben Levin’s Sentencing 1 – Dirty Pictures and Amsterdam Rendezvous

Last month Ben Levin, the former Deputy Minister of Education in the Liberal Government of Ontario, pleaded guilty on several charges related to making and distributing child pornography and counselling an adult to commit a sex act with a child. At the end of the hearing, the judge scheduled the sentencing for April and allocated three days for the new hearing. Today was the first day and judging from the tempo of the proceedings, the hearing may take even longer, because the court managed to deal with only two witnesses.

Ben Levin appeared with his attorneys Mr. Ruby and Mr. Chan. The first person to testify was a police officer from the Child Exploitation Unit of the Toronto police. He investigated Levin and in the process categorized the pornographic images found on his computer. The investigators discovered 79 questionable images, but most of them were temporary automatic downloads. Only 13 images and two short videos were saved and accessible by Levin. The officer brought a disk with the images. The prosecutor Ms. Garcia asked the judge to allow showing the pictures (only to the court). Mr. Ruby objected citing time constraints, but the judge overruled his request. Then he stood behind the officer and looked at the images on the officer’s computer while they were being shown to the judge.

The officer explained that they were located in several folders on Levin’s computer. Before showing each image, he named the folder and the file name and then described the content. He used very formal medical language, which I am going to simplify in order to keep the descriptions short.

WARNING: you can skip the next 5 paragraphs, if they make you feel uncomfortable.

The first batch of images was in the Documents folder. Image #1 depicted a nude pre-pubescent girl lying underneath an adult man having a vaginal intercourse with her. The officer determined the image to be child pornography. Image #2 showed a topless young girl lying on the beach with legs wide spread. #3 was a nude young Caucasian girl with a raised leg. #4 depicted another Caucasian underage girl with the penis of an adult male in her mouth.

The second batch was located in another subfolder of the Documents folder. Image #1 showed two undeveloped half-naked Caucasian girls in bed kissing and embracing each other. #2 included a female child lying on bed in G-string bikini exposing herself in a provocative pose. Image #3 (which was mentioned in paragraph 11 of the Statement of Facts) showed a girl in a provocative pose with an adult woman and a man.

The third folder contained three images. The first one was a female child victim of sex exploitation (that was used in the Crown’s comments to the case). #2 depicted a nude pubescent girl with an exposed vagina. The last image showed two women with a young girl – the child wore a collar with a chain, with the end of the chain held by one of the women.

A fourth folder contained 5 images. #1 was showing an underage girl holding an adult man’s penis ejaculating on her. The second picture depicted two nude Asian children on a bed with an adult male having sex with one of them; three more children are standing in the background and watching. #3 had a woman and girl on a mattress on a floor; the woman is penetrating the girl vaginally with a strap-on dildo. #4 was showing a blindfolded nude girl. The last image showed a young girl in bikini, buttocks facing the camera, with her vagina exposed.

There were also two short videos. The first one (24 seconds) showed a man ejaculating in the mouth of a young girl. The second video (1 minute 40 seconds) featured two young nude girls embracing and touching each other genitally. The judge watched both videos.

After the presentation Mr. Ruby noted that there were over 2,000 pornographic images on Levin’s computer and only a very small portion was classified as child pornography.

When the officer left the stand, it was taken by the expert witness Dr. Julian Gojer, a Toronto psychiatrist, who presented a written report on the condition of Ben Levin.

He was cross-examined by Mr. Ruby, who started with asking many questions about Dr. Gojer’s qualifications and experience. He stated that over the years he had prepared many reports on the state of mind and possible treatment of sex offenders (he estimated the number of about 100 per year).

He testified that he spent a long time with Levin, interviewing him, and also interviewed his wife, many of the conversations were done by phone. Mr. Ruby wanted to know if in such a situation the patient could manipulate the doctor. Dr. Gojer said that this was difficult, since in this case they already had a statement of facts.

His diagnosis was that Ben Levin had sexual interest in children, but there was no evidence that he was interested in actually dealing with them in person. Still, he displayed pedophilic behaviour. Many pedophiles develop their urges in puberty, but there is no simple answer for a variety of reasons. Having fantasies is common and they usually don’t affect the behaviour and don’t force the person to act on them. This is pedophilic disorder as opposed to actual pedophilia. Such condition could be treated. Levin is not hands-on offender – though he had sadistic fantasies, his collection of child pornography was very small; he relied on his fantasies.

At the same time, he advised another person to commit sex act with a children, so that’s not the lowest behavioral danger in the spectrum. Such advise had the potential to cause real harm to a child.

Mr. Ruby wanted to know the spectrum of risk for Levin to re-offend. Dr. Gojer estimated that the risk was low – Levin was remorseful and he was aware that he hurt his family. There is no hands-on risk of offense. Having fantasies is common in many fields of life and is displayed by many people (like in violent games) without affecting their behaviour. Though in rare cases fantasies could cause violence, removing them in treatment may have worse consequences, because they often are substitute for real violence.

Answering Ruby’s question about the role of Levin’s wife and daughters in the case, Dr. Gojer noted that he never abused them and domestically was a non-violent individual. His children were part of his fantasies, but he never took action. Besides, he developed pedophilic tendencies late in life. Commenting on the small number of child porn images, the doctor observed that many pedophiles are not visually stimulated, but just like Levin, derive gratification from chats with other people. He didn’t show a tendency to switch to actual sex contacts.

I am skipping quite a few moments of the exchange, because Mr. Ruby kept asking questions, whose answers revolved around the supposedly harmless nature of Levin’s fantasies (as he saw them) and the possibility that his fantasy urges could be easily controlled and treated.

At certain point Dr. Gojer justified Levin’s problems with difficult childhood (one of his parents died early); he also suffered from erectile dysfunction and had to work on self-acceptance. Those factors would diminish the risk even further.

Mr. Ruby then said that Levin could get a possible jail sentence of two years. Dr. Gojer found that reasonable – Levin is not anti-social, he was affected by the media exposure and wants that the people learn from his mistakes. He is already attending counselling. It is necessary to develop a flexible treatment plan depending on his progress. (The discussion on these issues also went on for a while.)

Finally, Mr. Ruby finished and the prosecutor Ms. Garcia started her own cross-examination. Her strategy was to find holes in the estimates and evaluations presented in Dr. Gojer’s report. That wasn’t difficult.

She started by saying that the opinions and conclusions in the report depend on facts presented by the defendant and as such they could be manipulated. Though the doctor received from the Crown the statement of facts, Levin could distort them with the information and opinions presented by him in the interviews. Ms. Garcia observed that according to the report, Levin stated that he had no interest in child pornography; he came upon it during sex chats online. He also said that he had a passing interest and used to masturbate on that. He developed an interest three years ago, but compared to his life, that period of infatuation was short. She then asked if the doctor could confirm that Levin didn’t have a deep-rooted interest in child pornography and had no contact with children. Dr. Gojer confirmed that this was his conclusion after the interviews.

However, Ms. Garcia stated that his family, which was not involved in his activities, didn’t know anything about his urges and fantasies; he managed to deceive them. The doctor replied that those were private fantasies that Levin didn’t share.

She then said that he had many online chats with the undercover officers, in which he discussed sex acts with children. He even asked for pictures of children. That’s important. Then she revealed a new fact, which became known only the day before this hearing – Levin actually met in Amsterdam a member of the chat group, a father with a young daughter from England. This goes beyond fantasy. In Levin’s case we have a person who misrepresents the facts – he also had phone conversations with members, which is a step forward. Then he met the man in Amsterdam and they discussed past child sexual abuse.

Dr. Gojer noted that there was no actual child involved in the interaction. Ms. Garcia countered again that the actions went beyond fantasy and asked if the doctor challenged Levin over the case. He said no, because for a real sex offense a real person is needed.

After a recess, Ms. Garcia asked if Levin shared with the doctor the Amsterdam experience. He didn’t recall any details; he thought the experience was fantasy. He checked his notes, but couldn’t find anything entered earlier. He just learned about the meeting, but didn’t think it was important, because no abuse took place. Besides, he didn’t have time to note that in the report.

Then Ms. Garcia brought up the chat transcripts, where Levin discussed at length the man from England whom he met and even included a family picture. He claimed he met the family and specifically mentioned the young daughter, noting that she arouses him with the words “I feel like fucking her.” And then he said that he and the father “perved together.” Isn’t that a significant exchange? Dr. Gojer replied with his standard phrase that everything was a fantasy.

The man Levin met in Amsterdam sent him a picture of the family and the names and ages of the children matched those discussed by Levin in the chat. Levin also discussed the father’s desire to have sex with his children. Ms. Garcia’s next question was about the information Levin shared online, especially about his family (like their names), isn’t that real? Yes, said the doctor, but he also shared fantasies.

However, he spoke about abusing his children and implicated his wife as a participant. It was all fantasy, said the doctor, and added that getting the wife involved is not necessarily significant.

After that they discussed the nature of pedophilia and its presence in Levin’s behaviour, repeating quite a lot of the Ruby-Gojer discussion, with Dr. Gojer insisting on the fantasy element. The discussion continued even after a new recess.

Then Ms. Garcia wanted to know whether Levin was aware that he was involved in potentially harmful for children behaviour. He is a very intelligent person and was an educator, who worked with children – wasn’t he aware of the harm? The doctor’s opinion was that Levin was involved in distortion, which even intelligent people could use to justify their behaviour.

The prosecutor asked again if Dr. Gojer explained to Levin the harm of his actions. He replied that Levin was aware of it, but chose to engage anyway. The judge added another question – if the doctor spoke to Levin about the photos where real children are abused. The doctor’s reply was that Levin was minimizing that to subconscious level.

Another document was mentioned by Ms. Garcia – the list of chat members’ profiles maintained by Levin, where he marked some of them as “fake.” In her opinion, it confirmed that not all chats that Levin had were fantasies – he was probably ready to get engaged in contacts with the real members.

At this point Mr. Ruby interrupted the conversation and introduced a notice from the Norwich police in England – they just searched the house of the man Levin met in Amsterdam and didn’t plan to lay charges. Then he asked the doctor a few questions about Levin’s contacts with that man. Dr. Gojer confirmed that in his opinion the incident wasn’t that important and he was not going to change his report because of it.

That concluded the cross-examination of Dr. Gojer.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

 

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One Comment

  1. CF Avenger says:

    He should get nothing short of hanging from a rope until dead. Excuses for his behaviour? “Dr. Gojer justified Levin’s problems with difficult childhood (one of his parents died early); he also suffered from erectile dysfunction and had to work on self-acceptance. Those factors would diminish the risk even further.” Many people have a parent who died early. Self-acceptance? What, no one told him he was special? He’s special now, alright. No excuses at all for this perve. I’d like to see who gave him requested letter sof support.

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