Former television crime reporter Ron Bencze will be sentenced on Aug. 28 after pleading guilty today to sexually assaulting a boy.
Bencze, 46, of Cloverdale, was originally charged with nine sexual offences related to three children. Last week he pleaded guilty in Surrey provincial court to one count of sexual assault involving a boy who is now 14. It started when the boy was nine.
"I'm not asking for forgiveness," he told Judge Robin Baird, through his lawyer Richard Peck. "I will work hard to redeem myself and try to regain the trust I have squandered."
Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lopes said the Crown will stay the other charges. She asked Baird to consider a federal prison sentence of two to three years for Bencze, who has been on bail since the day after his Jan. 18, 2011 arrest.
Peck argued for 18 to 24 months of house arrest.
Lopes said the molesting, which included masturbation and oral sex, started when the boy was nine. There is a publication ban on information that could identify the victim.
The court heard the boy's mother contacted police after finding sexually explicit text messages Bencze had sent to her son on his cellphone. The boy said in a victim impact statement that as a result of being molested he felt confused and punched walls in frustration.
"I felt suppressed because I had to keep a secret," he wrote. "I am trying to live and behave as a normal teenager."
His childhood was "tainted," he added.
"I feel that I have missed out on a childhood that was meant for me."
The boys' mom lamented his lost innocence.
"This has been devastating for us," she wrote.
Lopes noted that children are society's most valuable and vulnerable assets. Bencze is guilty of a "significant" breach of trust, she said.
"The seriousness of the offence cannot be overstated. These were repeated assaults."
Peck noted that a psychiatrist doesn't believe Bencze is a pedophile but rather is emotionally locked in at an adolescent age.
Bencze was once a "prominent and respected newsman in the Lower Mainland," Peck noted. As a result, media coverage of this case has been intense, "massive" and "inflammatory," he added.
"It has accentuated his substantial fall from grace."
"This is a scarlet letter in a sense that he'll carry for the rest of his life," Peck said. "There will be whisperings - 'You know who that is?' - that sort of thing. This scarlet letter, as it were, won't expire."
Bencze had been a television reporter with Global BC since 2004 and before that worked as a crime reporter with radio News 1130. He is married and has three children.
Peck noted that Bencze was fired from his job over these charges, in April 2011. It's "not surprising," the lawyer said, that an employer in the media "would run for cover" under such circumstances.
Outside the courthouse, reporters asked Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie why the other charges against Bencze are being stayed.
"I can't go into a lot of detail at this point - the matter is still before the court. The Crown looked at the circumstances as a whole of what was alleged against Mr. Bencze. We concluded that it was appropriate to proceed on the single count of sexual assault that he pleaded guilty to today, that reflecting the most serious allegations made against him."
Does that mean he'll get a tougher sentence?
"I don't think I'd want to speculate at this point about what the impact might be of charges that Crown isn't proceeding on," MacKenzie said. "I can say that Crown consulted with police and with members of the complainant's family and explained the decision in relation to the complainants the Crown wasn't proceeding on and they all understood the decision the Crown had made in the case."
Bencze was charged in January 2011 with one count of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference and two counts of invitation to sexual touching in relation to a child. Since then, the Surrey RCMP laid two more counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual interference related to two other alleged victims.
He pleaded not guilty to those charges in 2011. The alleged victims' names, gender and other identifying information are shielded by a publication ban.
In November Bencze was charged with breaching his bail after allegedly venturing too close to an elementary school in Cloverdale and was released on stricter conditions after turning himself in.
@ Copyright 2013