University of Calgary student pleads guilty to sexual interference, has jail sentence postponed
By Amber McLinden, Features Editor
Connor Neurauter, 21-year-old University of Calgary student, was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which he won’t be serving until May so he can complete his semester.
The suggestion, made during his sentencing, was accepted without protest, according to the victim’s mother.
“Let’s postpone his jail sentence until May so he can finish his year of university. Nobody has stood up and said no, during the whole thing — there was not one time where the judge or even the Crown said ‘please, this is not right.’ The victims are the ones who have been paying over and over, every time we went to court,” she told The Calgary Sun.
The victim’s name, along with her mother, can’t be shared due to a court-ordered publication ban, but the crime took place in B.C. The Kamloops girl was 13-years-old at the time and Neurauter was 18.
Neurauter was first charged in 2016 of sexual interference with a person under 16 and child pornography.
According to Vice, Neurauter choked the victim and asked her for nude photographs via text and Snapchat. He then threatened to expose these photos if she didn’t keep quiet about the “relationship.”
The victim read a victim impact statement in court, explaining her fears of Neurauter and what she believed might happen, Vice reports.
“I was very scared because he knew where I lived and knew where my room was,” she said.
The court process was seemingly delayed at least once. The victim’s mother explained to the Calgary Sun that she was frustrated with the entire process, explaining the court made delays in the process to accommodate Neurauter’s schedule.
This is backed by previous reports on the case. On Sept. 26, 2016, Kamloops This Week reported a lawyer appeared on behalf of Neurauter and requested the arraignment be delayed as he was out of town attending hockey camp.
Neurauter was charged with sexual interference, which in Canada warrants a jail sentence from 90 days to 18 months or a $5,000 dollar fine. This means he was sentenced to the minimum time for the crime he committed. This is part of a plea deal that was offered to Neurauter, which dropped child pornography charges for his possession of nude photos of the girl.
The charge for child pornography possession ranges between 90 days to 5 years in jail, depending on the details of the case. Instead, the plea deal is 90 days in jail, beginning in May, two-years probation in which he cannot contact the victim or be in the presence of anyone under 16 and an order to register as a sex offender for 10 years, reports the Calgary Sun.
The victim was 13 at the time the events took place, meaning she was under the age of 16 and legally unable to consent.
Many people, especially students and the community of Calgary, are speaking out against the postponement.
Numerous news outlets have picked up the story as reported here, from the University of Calgary paper, The Gauntlet to Vice.
On Jan. 9, a petition on change.org was started, and on Jan. 16, the petition already has over 70,000 signatures.
University of Calgary students are also speaking out against the length of sentencing and his presence on campus this semester. The Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club at the University of Calgary spoke out about the topic on their Facebook page on Jan. 9.
“Both Neurauter’s extremely short sentence and the post-poning of his prison term in favour of not interfering with his academic and athletic career is a shameful example of rape culture,” the post states. “The lack of significant consequences faced by Neurauter and other sexual predators demonstrates the dismissive attitude that society shows toward sexual violence and abuse.”
The post also refers to sexual violence support resources, including counselling and other supports.
University of Calgary student Paloma Bogacz posted about the situation on Jan. 8 on Facebook.
“The justice system has failed the victim, first and foremost, by sending the message that if you are white, young, and an athlete, you can receive minimal punishment for sexual offences,” the post reads. “However, the University of Calgary, has failed the victim and its students as well. By allowing a sex offender to freely finish his classes and eventually graduate, they send a message to the victim that their experience doesn’t matter, and that their abuser gets to lead a normal life and finish his studies before facing his punishment.”
“Dana Cramer and I will be organizing a movement to counter this. We will be rallying as many people together to help fight this. This is unacceptable,” she continues.
“We are disappointed the university didn’t take a stance, so we want to show that students do not stand for this,” Bogacz tells The Reflector.
“We want to run either a protest or movement of some sort, sometime early next week and make our voices heard,” she adds, explaining that the date of this is still to be determined.
Parents speak up
Neurauter’s parents have since issued a statement to CBC News, expressing support for their son and criticizing media coverage.
“We love and support our son. Since he was arrested he has done his best to be respectful of the legal system and the other individuals involved in this matter,” the statement read, according to CBC News.
“We are disappointed in the distorted and sensationalistic coverage by the media and believe them to be entirely complicit in the attempts of one individual to crush a young man that has genuinely tried to do his best in this bad situation. We are proud of how [he] has and continues to handle himself.
“We would like to profusely thank our friends and family for their support. Most of us remember being 18 and the challenges that were involved. This has been a nightmare for our family, one that none of us, but particularly our children, are equipped to handle. We would not wish this situation on anyone,” it says.
The University of Calgary released a statement on Jan. 10, saying it is reviewing the situation.
“The University of Calgary is committed to providing a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for our campus community,” the statement says. “The university has conduct, sexual violence and harassment policies in place, and extensive support services that provide a wide range of expertise and assistance to all community members. We are committed to providing support and resources to all members of our campus community who wish to access them.”
On Jan. 11, a statement was released to students at the university from the Provost, Dru Marshall.
Marshall explains the event occurred when Neurauter was not a student at the university, when he was 18, and therefore they have no grounds to expel him.
Marshall says this doesn’t excuse him either.
“This does not mean that the university condones sexual violence or harassment, nor does it mean that we prioritize the rights of a convicted individual over the safety of our university community,” she says in the statement.
“We would like to clarify that Mr. Neurauter has not been on campus since Tuesday January 9 and we have advised him not to return to campus for the remainder of the term,” she adds.
The Provost told the Calgary Herald that the university was taking measures to protect students.
“If he was to show up on campus, campus security would escort him off campus,” Marshall told the Herald. “He has been advised not to come on campus.”
Feeding the system?
This isn’t the first time a sentence has been postponed or completely dismissed so the perpetrator can preserve a part of their “future.”
Chance Macdonald, a Queen’s University student, had his sentence delayed so he could attend his internship. Macdonald had assaulted a girl at a party in 2015 and sentenced in 2017. Vice reports he was later fired from the internship the court tried to help him keep.
Brock Turner, colloquially known as the “Stanford Rapist,” sexually assaulted an unconscious girl, was sentenced to serve 6 months in 2016, which many criticized as unfairly minimal.
People speculated his college career as a swimmer was a factor in the judge’s decision. The case made national headlines after both the victim impact statement and the sentencing.
While the situation often attracts press and community attention that ultimately work against the perpetrator in different ways, this didn’t stop the judge on this case from postponing Neurauter’s sentence.
The world watched Macdonald and Turner as they went through similar situations, and it seems Neurauter’s case will also have many watching to see how he and the community around him will react.