BY THE CHRONICLE HERALD
A Prince Edward Island retiree found guilty of sexually assaulting an employee at a tanning salon in the Halifax area has been handed a 135-day conditional sentence.
Don Ernst Harley, 68, of Brackley Beach was convicted in September.
A warrant was issued after Harley failed to show up for sentencing in Halifax provincial court Nov. 24.
The senior was arrested in P.E.I. and brought to Halifax, where he was sentenced Thursday.
Judge Gregory Lenehan also placed Harley on probation for two years and ordered him to provide a DNA sample for a national databank and register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
After hearing the evidence at trial, the judge ruled that Harley on Nov. 4, 2016, intentionally applied force to the victim in a sexual manner without her consent and that his actions violated her sexual integrity.
Lenehan accepted the complainant’s evidence that Harley French-kissed her, put his hands down her pants, felt her breasts, brushed her hands against the front of his pants and made lewd suggestive comments.
Harley, who represented himself at trial, maintained his innocence and denied doing anything sexual to the employee.
He insisted he was only trying to comfort the woman, who he said was upset about problems at home.
“I know now that ... I have to stop caring for people,” the former Dartmouth resident told the court Thursday. “I have to stop thinking I can solve everyone’s problems.
“You think that you’re helping someone, but you can’t enter their space.”
Harley asked for forgiveness from the woman and her family.
“My intentions were not to hurt (her),” he said. “But unfortunately by my actions, I hurt her, and I truly apologize.”
In a rambling address to the court, Harley said he worked with the federal government for 35 years before retiring, has been married for 38 years, attends church regularly and volunteers in the community.
He said he is receiving psychiatric counselling in Charlottetown and feels the sessions have been helpful.
Harley has one prior conviction, for exposing himself to a woman at a park in P.E.I. in 2012.
“What I have before me is an individual who late in life is coming into conflict with the criminal justice system because of inappropriate actions towards … young women,” Lenehan said.
“I have no doubt that when Mr. Harley first approached (the victim) when she was upset at her employment, his intention was simply to provide her comfort. But he quickly went beyond just comfort.
“What allowed that switch to be thrown, I don’t know, but it’s certainly something that causes me concern.”
Crown attorney Jennifer Mickelson asked for a nine-month conditional sentence, but the judge said denunciation and deterrence could be achieved with a sentence half that long.
“The sentence that I impose is in no way a reflection on the impact that this has had on (the victim),” Lenehan said.
“I can tell you that (she) … was absolutely terrified when this happened to her. When she came into court and testified, she was terrified, not of the court process but of being in the same room as Mr. Harley. It was obvious in the way in which she presented herself, the way in which she carried herself in the courtroom.
“I have no doubt that (she) suffers to this day from this experience that she had in November of last year. This past year must have been an absolute nightmare … and it’s not one that she’s going to recover from any time soon.”
The judge placed Harley on house arrest at his Brackley Beach residence for the first 90 days of the conditional sentence. He will be subject to an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for the last 45 days.
Harley cannot have any contact with the victim, whose identity is protected, while he’s serving his conditional sentence and probation.
In addition, Lenehan ordered Harley to take part in mental health counselling and programming for sex offenders.
Also Thursday, Harley pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching a court order and was sentenced to time served.