Warning to readers: This story contains graphic content
Donnie Snook is seen in an earlier court appearance in Corner Brook. — TC Media file photo
By Karissa Donkin
SAINT JOHN – Former Saint John city councillor Donnie Snook has pleaded guilty to four sex abuse charges out of Newfoundland.
He stood in the prisoner’s box Thursday afternoon wearing a long-sleeved, light blue collared shirt and a thick goatee, as his lawyer, Dennis Boyle, entered his guilty pleas. Snook chose to be tried by a provincial judge.
After sitting down, Snook stared straight ahead, as Crown prosecutor Karen Lee Lamrock read out the facts of the abuse he committed against a boy he met during his work as an officer with the Salvation Army.
The crimes happened in tiny Mount Moriah, a town of fewer than 800 people just outside Corner Brook.
Lamrock said Saint John Police became aware of the crimes when Snook admitted an encounter with the victim, who was under 14 at the time, during a statement he gave police after his arrest.
According to facts read out in court by Lamrock, Snook committed sexual assault and sexual interference against a boy between Dec. 1, 1995 and April 1, 1996 at his home in Mount Moriah.
He committed the same two offences against the same boy between July 1, 1996 and Aug. 31, 1996, at Barachois Pond Provincial Park, located west of Corner Brook.
The first two charges stem from a night at Snook’s home, where the victim and two other boys were watching a movie. They often went to Snook’s home before church.
Snook and the victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, were on the couch during the movie. Snook placed a blanket over himself and the boy and pretended to fall asleep.
The court heard Snook then guided the boy’s hand to his groin to commit a sexual act.
The other two charges stem from a camping trip the boy took with Snook at Barachois.
That incident began with the boy fondling Snook again, as Snook pretended to be asleep. The victim also performed oral sex on Snook.
Snook guided the victim to sit on top of him for sex, but was unsuccessful. The victim, Lamrock said, tried to kiss Snook but Snook refused.
'Fair and accurate'
Snook’s lawyer told provincial court Judge Alfred Brien that the facts Lamrock read out were “a fair and accurate representation” of what happened.
During his original statement to police after his arrest in January, Lamrock said Snook offered a slightly different version of events, admitting only to the abuse on the camping trip.
“He advised that sometime during the night, he says he awoke to the victim performing oral sex upon him. Mr. Snook maintains he kept his eyes closed throughout the encounter,” Lamrock said.
When police interviewed the victim, he said the camping trip was actually the second time Snook abused him, and told investigators about the incidents at Snook’s home.
Snook worked in Mount Moriah from July 1994 to June 1997 as a pastor for a small congregation.
This past spring, Salvation Army Maj. Wade Budgell told the Telegraph-Journal that the organization’s Newfoundland branch didn’t receive any complaints of sexual misconduct against Snook, and only learned of the Mount Moriah charges through the media.
“There was no previous indication of misconduct by Donnie Snook during his service in Newfoundland with the Salvation Army,” Budgell said at the time.
Snook will be back in court on Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. for a sentencing hearing. At that time, Lamrock will read out a victim impact statement from the victim.
Lamrock also asked that the court consider a psychological assessment conducted on Snook by University of New Brunswick professor Mary Ann Campbell.
The assessment, written after Campbell spent 12 hours interviewing and testing Snook, concluded his attraction to young boys isn’t likely to go away, even if he learns how to control and manage his urges. Her report characterized Snook as a moderate risk to re-offend.
The four sex charges were transferred from Newfoundland to New Brunswick after Snook pleaded guilty to 46 charges, including sexual assault and possessing, distributing and making child pornography over a 12-year period in Saint John.
Snook was sentenced last month to 18 years in prison, with time-and-a-half credit for time already served in jail.
He is appealing the sentence, saying it is unreasonable and in excess of the appropriate range.
-With files from April Cunningham