Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut December 01, 2017 - 4:14 pm

Nunavut teacher found guilty of 27 decades-old sex crimes

Johnny Meeko acquitted on five charges; sentencing to follow in February

STEVE DUCHARME
Former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko leaves the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit last May. (FILE PHOTO)
Former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko leaves the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit last May. (FILE PHOTO)

Former Sanikiluaq teacher, Johnny Meeko, has been found guilty of 27 historic sex crimes, but stands acquitted of more serious accusations including rape and forcible confinement, as a Nunavut judge delivered a long-awaited decision Friday at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Nunavut Chief Justice Neil Sharkey read a shortened version of his final decision Dec. 1, listing the 32 alleged sex offences Meeko was accused of committing against nine victims between 1972 and 2007 while working as a teacher in Sanikiluaq.

“From a denunciatory standpoint, the offences for which Mr. Meeko has been convicted are of a serious nature, involving a massive breach of trust and over an extended period of time, that a significant jail term is called for,” Sharkey said from the bench of the Nunavut Court of Justice, Dec. 1.

The decision concludes a two-week trial that’s been held in limbo since it effectively ended in 2015. Meeko was arrested for the charges in 2012.

As Sharkey declared Meeko guilty of 27 offences, including sexual assault, assault and sexual touching, the victims of Meeko’s actions listened via teleconference link from the RCMP station in Sanikiluaq.

The identities of the nine complainants—some of whom were minors when they were assaulted—are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

Meeko, 62, was present in the Iqaluit courtroom for the decision, wearing blue sweatpants and a tucked-in grey t-shirt with a logo reading, “bear commando.”

Meeko has lived in Iqaluit under restrictive bail conditions since he was released from remand custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre in 2013.

He was largely expressionless as Sharkey read the verdicts, but leaned over to speak to his lawyer, James Morton, and also looked back at his wife sitting in the courtroom’s gallery.

Sharkey said he believed, in its entirety, the testimony of eight complainants, but did not believe accusations of rape and forcible confinement by another complainant, which was alleged to have occurred in Sanikiluaq in the 1970s and 1990s.

Sharkey’s abbreviated verdicts did not specify why he dismissed the more serious charges, only that the “Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the offences occurred.

Sharkey told the court he would release a complete and expanded decision prior to sentencing submissions by lawyers scheduled for Feb. 5.

The charges for which he was acquitted follow a previous attempt by Meeko to reopen his case in January, after his lawyer received new information suggesting one or some of Meeko’s accusers falsified testimony.

But that action was ultimately dropped in May when Meeko told the court that witnesses were unable to deliver testimony due to logistics.

At that time, Sharkey told lawyers he expected to deliver a final verdict on Meeko’s case in September, but ultimately delayed the decision for another two months so he could pore over court files and transcripts from a judge-only trial that ended nearly two years earlier.

Sharkey permitted Meeko to remain on bail until his sentencing submissions in February, but placed Meeko under strict “house-arrest” conditions until that time.

“Those of you listening in Sanikiluaq, you must be wondering when this case will ever end,” Sharkey told the victims attending the court via teleconference.

“I respect and understand your frustration in this regard, and at this point all I can say is that this is a case where there has been valid and good reason why there has been such delay.”

Sharkey assured the victims that “at least the end is near.”

Sharkey told lawyers he expects to deliver Meeko’s sentence for the 27 convictions “a few days” following sentencing submissions by lawyers.

Meeko’s victims will also have a chance to address the court in person, by phone or in writing before the sentence is read, Sharkey said.

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