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Graham James Going Back To Court, Former Victims Plan To Attend

06/19/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT
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SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - Two former victims of Graham James say they will be on hand as the next chapter in the disgraced junior hockey coach's sexual abuse case opens in a Saskatchewan courtroom today.

Todd Holt and Sheldon Kennedy plan to be in Swift Current to support another accuser as he faces the convicted pedophile who is charged with more sex offences.

"When I started the process it was one of the absolutely most terrifying things I faced in my life," Holt says. "I think it's important that some of the people are coming out.

"I think I'm up front with them. I tell them it's a rough road and I was told the same thing when I started."

This is the third time James has faced sex charges.

James served 3 1/2 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in 1997 to sex offences against Kennedy and two others. Kennedy played for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League at the time of the assaults and went on to play in the NHL.

James sought and received a pardon for those offences in 2007, but he was back in court a few years later when Holt and his cousin, former Calgary Flames star Theo Fleury, came forward with a new set of allegation.

James pleaded guilty and was initially sentenced to two years in 2012. An Appeal Court increased the sentence to five years, and although he has been eligible for full parole, he has never made an application.

A new set of criminal charges was laid last month for allegations of repeated sexual assault on another Broncos player. The investigation began after the RCMP received a complaint in September 2013.

The judge has issued a publication ban on details that might identify the complainant. James waived a preliminary hearing and has elected to be tried in Court of Queen's Bench by judge alone.

Kennedy says it's important to support and offer help to those who come forward, noting that when he first reported James to police, investigators estimated there could be as many as 100 other victims.

"It's a very shameful experience — the mental manipulation is huge and there's the fear," Kennedy says. "I think we need to create a culture in our society that allows people to feel comfortable and take the risk to come forward."

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