ATHABASCA — An Athabasca man who was one of 26 arrested in a provincewide sweep related to the possession and distribution of child pornography pleaded guilty last week to a single charge of possession.
In Athabasca Provincial Court June 28, Judge Jeffery Champion was asked by federal specialized prosecutions Crown lawyer Monica Sabo to amend the date range of Michael Courtepatte’s charge after the investigation showed an earlier date than originally thought by law enforcement. Judge Champion amended the start date to Nov. 1, 2005 and the end date remained Sept. 2, 2020, the day Courtepatte, 44 at the time, was arrested.
Courtepatte was one of 26 men arrested across Alberta between June 20 and Sept. 17, 2020 by the Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE), a division under the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT). ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism.
“Most of the arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which works with Internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation,” stated a Sept. 30, 2020 media release.
It was also noted at the time there was no definitive link between the cases, other than the nature of the offences.
Sabo gave a brief overview of the case against Courtepatte – who was originally charged with distribution and possession of child pornography, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of child pornography. She told court 16 devices were seized in the raid and when he was questioned at the Athabasca RCMP Detachment the day of his arrest, he admitted pornography would be found and admitted to possession of child pornography.
Distribution can come with a maximum sentence of 14 years, while that falls to two years for possession, according to the Criminal Code of Canada. She then told Judge Champion a forensic report on the devices was received April 29 detailing what was found — over 8,000 photographs and over 3,500 videos of male children engaged in sexual acts with other children or adult males.
Courtepatte was not present in court, but appeared via phone on WebEx, where he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and agreed to the statement of facts read by the prosecutor. Courtepatte’s lawyer requested a pre-sentencing report be completed before a sentence is determined. The Crown is expecting to require a half-day to present evidence July 12, which the judge will use to determine Courtepatte’s sentence at a later date.