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Families relieved at 5-year sentence for N.L. child molester

Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan hugs a woman at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Friday after Reginald Joseph O’Keefe was sentenced to five years in jail for molesting four children decades ago. O’Keefe sexually assaulted the woman’s three-year-old daughter in 2012 in a separate case.
Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan hugs a woman at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Friday after Reginald Joseph O’Keefe was sentenced to five years in jail for molesting four children decades ago. O’Keefe sexually assaulted the woman’s three-year-old daughter in 2012 in a separate case.

Convicted child molester Reginald Joseph O’Keefe had just been given a five-year jail term and had been led out of the courtroom. At that moment, Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan walked to the back of the room towards a woman, who stood up to meet her. The woman sobbed as the two shared a long embrace.

O’Keefe, 70, had been found guilty of six counts of indecent assault, as it was called in the Criminal Code decades ago, involving four girls back then.

The woman at the back of the courtroom wasn’t involved in the case, but she had a connection.

In 2012, O’Keefe was convicted of sexually assaulting her daughter when the girl was three years old. He got a year in jail for that crime.

The woman can’t be identified in order to protect her daughter’s identity, but she has watched this recent case closely and attended O’Keefe’s sentencing hearing a few weeks ago to show support for the four victims, who had flown in from various parts of North America to present their victim impact statements.

Earlier story

After Justice Garrett Handrigan rendered his sentencing decision Friday, the woman immediately texted each of the women to let them know the outcome. She said they hadn’t expected O’Keefe to get such a lengthy sentence.

“They are overwhelmed,” she said. “We were all hoping for two years plus a day. We wanted him to be shipped off to a federal penitentiary. That was our goal.”

Prosecutor Sullivan had suggested a six- to eight-year jail term, while defence lawyer Derek Hogan suggested a two-year conditional sentence.

The sexual assaults happened in two locations in the province — one in Labrador and the other on the island — over three decades, the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, when the girls were between the ages of six and 10.

The woman said the sexual assault of her daughter has haunted her for a long time, but she is determined that they will get past it.

“This is closure for us,” she said. “He’s going away for a long time. He’s not going to hurt anybody else after today. We needed this. It’s done. It’s over.”

In handing down the sentence, the judge gave O’Keefe 117 days’ credit for the time he’s already served in custody, leaving about four years and eight months on his term.

But in his written decision, Handrigan had harsh words for O’Keefe, who he called a troubled person. He said O’Keefe does not accept responsibility for his actions and fails to see the impact he had on his victims.

“Mr. O’Keefe is not contrite for what he did to the complainants,” Handrigan wrote. “He has expressed no remorse to them and he is decidedly unrepentant and heedless of its impact on them.

“In fact … he continues to maintain his innocence and says some of the complainants are just trying to get revenge on him for a dispute over land.”

Handrigan pointed out that even in O’Keefe’s 2012 case involving the three-year-old girl, he maintained the girl and her mother were lying and said he pleaded guilty only because his lawyer said he would get a lighter sentence. He said he would’ve “beat the charges” if he could’ve afforded to pay for a better lawyer.

O’Keefe showed no reaction to the sentence, only to nod at his son as he hobbled out of the courtroom with sheriff’s officers, using his walker.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

 

Twitter: TelyCourt

 

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