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Randall Hopley Sentencing: B.C. Child Abductor Doesn't Deserve To Be Locked Away, Lawyer Argues

07/19/2012 07:20 EDT | Updated 09/18/2012 05:12 EDT

CRANBROOK, B.C. -- The man who abducted a three-year-old British Columbia boy last year before returning him unharmed several days later is a harmless, child-like figure who doesn't deserve to be locked away indefinitely as a dangerous offender, his lawyer told a sentencing hearing Thursday.

Randall Hopley has pleaded guilty to breaking into Kienan Hebert's home in Sparwood, B.C., in the middle of the night last September before spiriting the boy to a cabin at a nearby Bible camp.

Kienan was returned four days later and Hopley was later arrested at the Bible camp.

Crown has indicated it may seek to have Hopley, who turns 47 next week, labelled a long-term or dangerous offender, which would allow the court to hand him an indeterminate sentence.

But the man's lawyer told a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Cranbrook that such a sentence would be too extreme.

"We don't have any violence, any maltreatment or any threats of violence,'' William Thorne said during the second day of Hopley's sentencing hearing.

"We have a case of a simple man who did a stupid thing but who treated the boy well.''

Hopley has insisted he never harmed or sexually assaulted the boy, and the Crown has presented no evidence that he did.

However, the Crown also points to Hopley's criminal history, including a sexual assault on a five-year-old boy in 1985 and an attempted abduction in 2007, to suggest he is a dangerous man who must be kept from the public.

Thorne rejected that characterization.

"He has the manner and maturity in many ways of a child,'' said Thorne.

"Is it appropriate to put someone of Mr. Hopley's level of functioning to the dangerous offender or long-term offender regime for sentencing? This is a real stretch for the prosecution to make. The dangerous offender, long-term offender sentencing regime is for the most serious offences and the most serious offenders.''

The Crown has asked that Hopley be ordered to undergo a 60-day psychiatric assessment to determine whether he should be labelled a dangerous offender.

His two-day sentencing hearing featured video evidence in which Hopley confessed to police and also came face-to-face with Kienan's father, Paul Hebert.

Hopley sat in court with his head bowed down, struggling to hold back tears, as the video showed Hebert telling Hopley that he forgave him for abducting his son and thanked him for the boy's safe return.

"There was no sexual assault at all,'' Hopley said in the video interview.

Hebert asked Hopley if he was heterosexual or whether he only liked children.

"Oh, yes, I prefer women,'' replied Hopley. ``Children, but not in a sexual way. It was nothing to do with sex.''

In the interview, Hopley is reminded about his 1985 sexual assault conviction, but Hopley said he would never have done anything to someone as young as Kienan.

"That was in the past. I don't want to go back there,'' Hopley said softly. ``If I hurt a three-year-old, I would just take myself out in the bush and shoot myself.''

"I believe you,'' replied Hebert. "You took my son from me and I forgive you. Change yourself. Be a better person.''

Hopley has already pleaded guilty to abducting Kienan Hebert from the boy's home in Sparwood, a southeastern B.C. town near the Alberta boundary.

Kienan vanished from his bedroom in the middle of the night wearing Scooby Doo boxer shorts, prompting police to launch a massive search. The operation grew over several days, with police issuing an Amber Alert that was eventually expanded to include Alberta.

Hopley has consistently denied that he sexually assaulted Kienan. He insists he was looking for revenge against the justice system for what he says was a wrongful conviction in 2007, when he was accused of attempting to abduct a 10-year-old boy.

If Judge Heather Holmes grants the Crown's application for a 60-day psychiatric assessment, it could be some time before Hopley is sentenced.

"It is merely a trigger to launch the application,'' said Crown prosecutor Lynal Doerksen.

Doerksen said Hopley's previous convictions for sexual assault, abduction and numerous break and enters satisfy the criteria for a dangerous offender application.

The judge isn't expected to rule on the application for a psychiatric assessment until the second week of August.

Hopley also pleaded guilty Thursday to Alberta charges related to breaking into a cabin and taking up residence in 2010. The cabin contained children's clothing and toys.

"My client is a bit of a hoarder and collects things other people discard,'' explained Thorne.

After his 1985 conviction, a psychiatric report leading up to his prison release warned he could offend again.

The report said Hopley had an IQ well below average and seemed to have fallen between the cracks of various support agencies.

Hopley has been kept away from the general prison population since his arrest in September 2011.

Thorne, has said his client had been in solitary for the past 308 days for his own safety.

It was Hopley's desire to apologize that ultimately led police to him. He turned to Facebook to post an apology, allowing police to use his IP address to trace his location to the Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp.