05/25/2015 04:33 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 05:59 EDT

Graham James, Convicted Pedophile And Disgraced Hockey Coach, Faces More Charges


SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - Convicted pedophile and former junior hockey coach Graham James is facing more sex-related charges just weeks before his scheduled statutory release from prison.

Saskatchewan RCMP say James is facing criminal charges of repeated sexual assault that is alleged to have occurred when he was coaching the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in the early 1990s.

The Mounties said in a release Monday that they began an investigation after the detachment in Swift Current, Sask., received a complaint from a former Broncos player in September 2013.

Police say a lawyer for James appeared Monday in Swift Current provincial court where the case was put over to June 19. The judge issued a publication ban on details that might identify the alleged victim.

Prosecutor Glen Herman said James has waived a preliminary hearing and has elected to be tried in Court of Queen's Bench by judge alone.

None of the charges has been proven in court.

James is serving out the final weeks of a sentence for sexually abusing retired NHL star Theoren Fleury and Fleury's younger cousin, Todd Holt, when they played for him with the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors.

"By the time a pedophile gets caught he has over 120 victims, not surprised by the news of Graham James," Fleury tweeted on social media as news spread of the charges.

"For all of you asking if I'm ok, I appreciate it and it just gives me more conviction to keep fighting. I have a great life #epidemic."

James served 3 1/2 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in 1997 to sex offences against former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and two others. Kennedy played for the Broncos at the time of the assaults.

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

He told Calgary radio station CFFR that times have changed since then and a lot of strides have been made.

He said it's encouraging "for people to come forward, and (have) the feeling that ... they're going to be believed and it's not their fault. That's a lot different since 1997. I look at this individual or individuals who have come forward and I think, 'good on 'em,' and now the journey begins."

The Canadian Hockey Association imposed a lifetime ban on James and he disappeared from public view when his sentence expired in 2000.

He quietly applied for and received a pardon from the National Parole Board in 2007, prompting national outrage and a tightening of the rules.

James came back to Canada from Mexico in 2010 to face more charges after Fleury came forward in his autobiography with allegations that the coach had sexually abused him.

James pleaded guilty and was initially sentenced to two years in 2012 for sexually abusing Fleury and Holt in the 1980s. An Appeal Court increased the sentence to five years.

Although James has been eligible for full parole, he has never made an application. He is scheduled for full release later this summer.

James was a rising star among junior hockey coaches in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had been named man of the year by The Hockey News in 1989 after coaching the Broncos to a WHL championship and Memorial Cup.

He became general manager and coach of the Calgary Hitmen in 1994.

James's sentencing hearing in 2012 was told his teenage players looked up to him because he was highly respected in the hockey world. They also believed — and were told by the coach — that he could make or break their careers.

Court heard both Fleury and Holt dreamed of making it big and their lives were almost destroyed as they struggled with their demons before coming forward to police with their accusations.

At his sentencing hearing, James apologized to his victims and their families.

"I wanted the best for you, but I did not give you my best. My actions forfeited our friendship. It is sad irony that it is you being among the persons I liked the most, today like me the least," he said.

"I am deeply sorry. I was wrong."

— By Chinta Puxley in Winnipeg, with files from CFFR


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