A now-retired local high school teacher was sentenced Tuesday to three years probation for engaging in a months-long sexual relationship with a student in the mid-1980s.
But for the passage of time and his otherwise good conduct in the years that have followed, Kim Randall Koehn, 67, would have been sentenced to a term in jail, Prince George provincial court judge Susan Mengering said.
Also working in Koehn's favour was the fact he pleaded guilty shortly after he was charged and the fact that he has expressed a measure of responsibility and sorrow for the impact his actions have had on the victim.
Starting in roughly October 1984 and lasting until about June 1985, a then-33-year-old Koehn and a then 16-year-old Karen Ann Holmes maintained a "consensual" relationship, according to an agreed statement of facts read into the court record.
(Holmes has waived her right to a ban on publication of information that would identify her.)
At the time, Holmes was the manager of the senior boys basketball team Koehn was coaching at Kelly Road Secondary School and had developed a crush on Koehn and began flirting with him, the court heard Tuesday.
Instead of rejecting her advances, Koehn accepted her offers of hugs and kisses and took Holmes out to dinner as the team traveled to towns around the Central Interior and Okanagan. By January, it had escalated into a sexual relationship that lasted until the end of the season.
Upon learning he could face criminal charges if found out, Koehn urged the girl to keep their relationship quiet and, in the years since, Holmes had only talked about it with family and close friends.
But also in the years since, Holmes has led a troubled life filled with alcohol abuse, depression, insecurity and anxiety, difficulty at work and and ongoing distrust and anger towards men. Both Koehn and Holmes continued to live in Prince George and, whenever they crossed paths, she would become physically ill.
Holmes, who has since moved away from Prince George and took in the proceedings by phone, eventually entered treatment - a step that cost her tens of thousand of dollars in fees and foregone income - and narrowed the cause of her troubles down to Koehn.
In May 2017, she went to the RCMP with her allegations.
Although the relationship was described as "consensual" in an agreed statement of facts, Koehn's actions met the standard for a charge of gross indecency - a charge that has since been replaced in the Criminal Code with sexual invitation and sexual assault.
Koehn had violated a "position of trust," the court was told and, in addressing the court prior to sentencing, he admitted as much, saying he let down his colleagues, friends and family.
However, he also said it was a "different time" and one when teachers did not receive training on how to deal with such situations and did not appreciate the impact such actions would have on young people later in their lives.
In sentencing Koehn, Mengering agreed to a joint submission from Crown and defence counsels that was supported, in part, by a similar case that involved a local teacher and basketball coach and one of his players.
In 2012, a then 62-year-old Roderick Sauve was sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence order, otherwise known as house arrest, for a near-five-year relationship in which the girl ended up getting an abortion at his urging.
On whether the relationship between Koehn and Holmes was consensual, Mengering commented that it was true only in the sense that it differed from a situation where "someone grabs a woman off a sidewalk and rapes her in a bush."
"We can't lose sight, in all of this, that Ms. Holmes is the victim," Mengering added.
However, Mengering also found Koehn gave a "sincere apology" to Holmes and was "sad and ashamed for the hurt he's caused her." Underlying health issues for Koehn were also raised as a reason to not send him to jail.
Terms of Koehn probation include house arrest for the first year. He is allowed out for two hours, three times per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon, except with permission from his probation officer and in instances of medical emergency.
He must also take counseling as directed by his probation officer, a step that was strongly advised he be required to take due to an apparent limited insight into the effects his actions have had, the court was told.
Koehn is also prohibited from contacting Holmes and cannot be in the presence of anyone under 18 years old except in the presence of an adult or with express written permission from his probation officer. He must also stay away from parks, pools, playgrounds and schools where youth tend to gather.
If Koehn violates the terms, Crown will take a "strong position" for a jail term, the court heard.
Holmes has also filed a lawsuit against Koehn and School District 57 seeking damages, saying in the statement of claim she was "deprived of a normal health childhood and adolescence as a result of the actions or in-actions of the defendants."
Holmes is represented by Aaron Lealess, the same lawyer who represented the sexual abuse victims of Wendell Diakiw, who taught at Austin Road Elementary School in the 1970s and 1980s. Among them was Michael Bruneau, who secured an apology and $1.1 million in damages from School District 57.
Published on March 17, 2021