Church youth leader enters guilty plea in sexual assault

A former youth leader at a Salmon Arm church has been sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence and one year of probation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl he met through church work.

A former youth leader at a Salmon Arm church has been sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence and one year of probation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl he met through church work.

Daron Mark Crown, 25, must also provide a DNA sample and be registered with the sex offender database for a period of 10 years.

On Tuesday, Judge Edmond De Walle accepted the joint submission from Crown counsel and defence counsel for the sentence, which means Crown will not be incarcerated for the nine-month term; instead he will serve his sentence in the community under a number of conditions. These include having no contact with the victim and remaining under house arrest except for employment or approved absences. If conditions are breached, he could be required to serve his remaining time in prison.

“I wish to express deep regret and accept responsibility for my actions to the court,” said Crown, who attended court with his wife and a small cluster of friends. Dressed in a dark blue pin-striped suit, Crown often held hands with his wife as he sat with his head bowed.

“I hope to make restitution and put this matter behind me.”

Crown was charged in May after allegations of the inappropriate relationship came to light.

Concerns were raised by the victim’s family members, who discovered Crown had sent roses to the girl and later found emails and text communication of a sexual nature. The victim later spoke to authorities of the relationship, which began in February 2010, and included sexual touching and oral sex, but not intercourse.

Although Crown was married and his wife was pregnant at the time of the offences, prosecutor Bill Hilderman said the victim believed Crown was in love with her and they would have an ongoing relationship.

“What we have here is a serious breach of trust from a person in a position of authority with a young person,” Hilderman told the court.

Defence lawyer Fredrick Kaatz pointed to Crown’s clean criminal record and noted he had previously won community and spiritual leadership awards. He directed the judge’s attention to 25 or more letters of support from community members.

“With the exception of this one incident, Mr. Crown has led a morally outstanding life… He is apologetic not only to the young lady, but to his family and friends who he feels he has let down.”

In his judgment, De Walle said there were a number of aggravating factors, including that Crown was in a position of trust, the victim was under 18 and that the offence did not happen just once, but in several instances over time. He noted Crown’s guilty plea spared his victim from testifying in a trial, and he had publicly admitted his wrongdoing.

“I accept that Mr. Crown is remorseful for his actions… I accept the risk of his re-offending is low,” he said.

De Walle referred to the victim impact statement from a member of the victim’s family, which spoke of how the situation has turned the family upside down.

In reference to the letters of support Crown received, De Walle said, “It is my hope and expectation that all the support church members and others have shown to you, would be shown in the same level to the victim and her family.”

Noting Salmon Arm is a small community, De Walle also said he took media publicity of the case into account during sentencing.