The Ontario Hockey Association Stratford Culliton’s lineup suffered a major shakeup with the sentencing of Assistant Captain Mitch Vandergunst on Feb. 5.
The 20–year-old was sentenced to a year in prison and two years probation stemming from an October conviction for one count of having forced intercourse with a woman, and one count of groping the same woman.
The assaults occurred in July 2013, but due to a publication ban specific details of the incidents are protected.
However, Justice George Brophy commented that:
- there was a predatory nature to [Vandergunst’s] actions
- his behavior has to be denounced in the strongest terms
- it cannot go unsanctioned
In court the victim, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, read a victim impact statement. She detailed how her life has changed irrevocably, and that she no longer wears makeup or goes out with her friends.
Defense lawyer Dave Reid argued that Vandergunst had already paid a heavy price due to his conviction.
- been suspended indefinitely
- put under a restraining order, and cannot have any communication with the family
- forced to enter a sexual offenders registry
The Crown countered Reid’s comments, stating that Vandergunst deserved to be penalized for his actions, and that he had brought the punishment upon himself.
Though his conviction for sexual assault was made public in October, he remained on the Culliton roster until Jan. 24. When asked why Vandergunst had remained on the roster, Culliton coach and Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson said he was not aware of the conviction.
Former London Free Press sports reporter Jim Cressman, in a tweet, cast suspicion on Culliton management only learning about the conviction last week.
— Jim Cressman (@Jim_Cressman) February 5, 2015
During the course of the trial however it was revealed that Vandergunst had spoken to one of his assistant coaches about the conviction.
The team’s prevention officer has launched a full investigation to determine if the coaches knew about the conviction and turned a blind eye, or were unaware of the situation.
Photo courtesy of CTV News.