03/21/2012 11:05 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Graham James Could Be Released From Prison This Fall


Disgraced former junior hockey coach Graham James could be out of prison before Christmas, despite receiving a two-year sentence this week for sexually assaulting two players.

James was sentenced Tuesday in Winnipeg for sexually assaulting ex-NHL player Theoren Fleury and Fleury's younger cousin, Todd Holt, while coaching them in the junior hockey ranks during the 1980s and early '90s.

James received two years for each offence, but the sentences will be served concurrently.

But David Deutcher, a University of Manitoba law professor, says all inmates have the opportunity to get early parole after serving only one-third of their sentences — and most are paroled after two-thirds.

"So whatever sentence you hear, that's not generally what the individual will serve," he said.

Because the sentence was two years, James is serving time in a federal penitentiary. Had the sentence been one day less, he would be in a provincial jail.

Uof M law professor David Milward said a shorter sentence in provincial jail could have actually meant more time behind bars.

"It might actually have been harsher … because then he'd have to do all of his time in provincial jail. But because his sentence was two years it's in a federal penitentary and he's eligible for parole after a third of his sentence," he said.

Milward believes parole at that one-third mark won't likely be a problem for James to get.

"He hasn't reoffended since his prior conviction and that's something the parole board's going to take into consideration," Milward said.

The Crown had sought a six-year prison term for James on the latest charges.

The defence wanted a conditional sentence with no jail time. The conditional sentence, of 12 to 18 months, would have included a curfew, monitoring and counselling.

Sentence 'an embarrassment'

The two-year sentence is drawing the ire of hockey parents in Winnipeg.

Ramona Thomson, who has three young girls in the sport, is outraged.

"I think it's actually an embarrassment that he only got two years, because he did really ruin people's lives," she said.

"I feel that for what he did, [the sentence should] ruin his life because he's ruined so many. I think it's really, was just, a huge scar on the Canadian hockey association."

Thomson said she regularly talks with her daughters about what is appropriate behaviour from their coaches.

Evan Roitenberg, James's lawyer, said Manitoba provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson made a "very reasoned and fair decision," even though the two-year prison term is longer than what he had wanted.

"I have no quarrel with the fact that this judge did a very thorough and reasoned decision, [taking] all factors into account," Roitenberg told CBC News in an interview.

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