Richard Roth’s long slow road to justice
Updated: June 10, 2013 1:10 PM
Richard Roth appeared in court 33 times, before seven judges over the course of 31 months before he was convicted and sentenced on a sex-related charge earlier this month.
A series of odd occurrences also meant that the Crown and police did not identity Roth, who is a prominent Red Deer businessman and former Red Deer College instructor.
Roth, a 39-year-old Red Deer travel agent, pleaded guilty earlier this month to sexually touching a young male while in a trust position.
He received a suspended sentence and probation for a year in Red Deer provincial court.
His name was also placed on a sex offender registry for 10 years and a DNA sample ordered for deposit with the RCMP data bank.
Although Roth was scheduled for 33 court dates, he seldom showed, letting his lawyer or an agent make appearances.
Roth’s identity was difficult to pin down because the police information sheet filed in June 2005 only revealed a first and last name.
Roth is a common name in Red Deer with more than 30 listed in the city phone book and 75 listed in Central Alberta.
No one from the media ever saw Roth in court until the guilty plea on March 6.
Roth himself denied to an Advocate reporter in a phone call last summer that he was the Richard Roth charged with sexual assault.
RDC officials also didn’t know about his charges until late last year.
The Red Deer Crown prosecutor’s office was in a state of change last summer with no chief prosecutor named until just recently to replace Bert Skinner, who was named a provincial judge last spring.
Senior Crown lawyer Murray McPherson said in early February that he couldn’t comment when asked he was if it was accused was the local businessman and instructor.
Prosecutor Morrey Ferries, who eventually took control of the case, also didn’t know of Roth’s background for some time and wouldn’t comment.
An RCMP media spokesman also told the Advocate in early February that the Roth charged was not the local businessman and RDC instructor.
However, the RCMP spokesman said later that there was a mixup with the file that led to the misinformation.
The investigator on the case had inherited the file from the initial investigator in 2005.
The second investigator gave the police spokesman incorrect information and apologized, saying that the accused was indeed the prominent businessman.
In addition, Advocate lawyers who were asked to check into the matter said they couldn’t comment because Roth’s lawyer Will Willms worked at their firm.
The time taken to dispense justice for Roth was not unexpected, lawyers and victim advocates say.
The passage of 31 months from the time a charge was laid until Roth pled guilty and was sentenced appears to be lengthy.
But it’s not unusual when a complex series of issues and circumstances are considered.
Sexual assault allegations also result in both the Crown and the defence proceeding at a slower than normal pace, says Michael Kiss, chair of the criminal justice section of the Southern Alberta Bar Association.
The charges were laid in August 2005. The offences occurred between 1999 and mid-2002.
People who counsel and guide sex assault victims through the court process say the path to conclusion can be lengthy.
“We give them a heads up about it when they come to us that it could be a lengthy process,” says Diane Howarth, executive director of the Red Deer Crisis Centre.
“Some of our cases take three and even four years to get through court,” said Howarth, who has assisted scores of victims.
“If we can get a case over in two years, we consider it lucky because the courts are really swamped and so are the prosecutors and defence attorneys.”
She did admit that 33 appearances is a “bit excessive.”
Howarth said men, especially young males, are less likely to come forward than a female to report a sexual assault.
Statistics indicate that fewer than 17 per cent of all sexual assaults are ever reported, says centre project manager Barbara Nyman.
The reporting rate from young males is even lower.
It’s unusual for a young male to come forward because of the way they’re raised, Nyman said.
Howarth said sometimes the perpetrator will drag out a case, hoping the victim will recant or not want to go to court.
Kiss said it’s unusual for a case to take 31 months to reach fruition. But not uncommon given the lack of resources in the Alberta justice system.
He said the province has fallen behind in the number of judges, prosecutors and police officers necessary to deal with cases.
“One of the factors in these cases is the complexity of the issue.”
He said judges won’t push experienced prosecutors and lawyers if they appear to be working toward a resolution.
“A huge, huge factor is not putting the victim on the stand where that alone can send them back for another year of counselling.”
He said if there’s an early indication that a resolution can be achieved without a trial, then delays are expected.
Roth’s lawyer Will Willms told court at sentencing that it was Roth’s early intention to avoid a trial and spare the victim from testifying.
Kiss said a guilty plea is a factor in sentencing because it shows the court a degree of remorse.
He also said a guilty plea is always better than a conviction at trial because there can be no appeal of a guilty plea.
An appeal could lead to another trial, which would take at least another year allowing for the appeal period, the time the appeal could be heard and a new trial scheduled.
Willms said at sentencing that Roth wrote an apology letter to the victim, showing some remorse.
Chief Crown prosecutor Anders Quist said working out an agreed statement of facts in this case was a lengthy process.
The Crown and defence must both agree to and sign the fact statement before it’s offered to the court.
The judge then decides if the facts dovetail before accepting a guilty plea.
In this case, court heard on at least two appearances in late 2007 and early 2008 that Roth didn’t agree to some of the statements proposed by the Crown so they had to be ironed out.
“In drafting one of these, there’s sometimes a lot of push and pull,” Quist said.
He said the Crown has to consider what it can prove if the case went to trial.
“He also decides what he can live with and what can we be sure of is true and the defence is basically saying what do I admit,” Quist said.
He said he didn’t have a problem seeing how two busy lawyers could engage in lengthy negotiations to reach an agreement.
In addition, prosecutor Ferries had health problems in the last year, said Quist, who was appointed chief Crown about three weeks ago.
During sentencing, lawyers always attempt to put their client in the best light for presentation to the court.
This involves pre-sentence reports, counselling for problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, sex abuse, anger management and family counselling.
Quist said this is a key for the court.
“The court will usually ask: don’t tell me what you’re going to do, show me what you’ve done.”
Quist also said there’s often consultations with the victim to get their take on the agreed statement.
“I’m not sure if this was done in this case but these type of things can slow the process,” Quist said.
Willms declined comment about the case.
Judge David Plosz presided during the first court appearance on Aug. 23, 2005. Judges Thomas Schollie, Jim Mitchell, Darrell Riemer, B.R. Fraser, Monica Bast and Ken Rostad all sat on the bench at least once during the 33 appearances.
Contact Jack Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org