Montreal pastor who took child bride convicted of sexual assault

CBC News, Canada/October 15, 2008

The head of a defunct church in Montreal who claims to have married a 10-year-old girl has been found guilty of sexual assault.

Daniel Cormier, 56, was convicted by a judge in provincial court in Montreal Wednesday.

The self-declared pastor alleges he married the girl in 1999, when she was 10, although the girl - now 19 - has testified that she didn't believe they were married at that time.

Cormier claims to have married the 10-year-old at a ceremony that took place at his obscure evangelical church in 1999.

He declared the union gave him the right to have sex with her. The girl said Cormier sexually assaulted her repeatedly until she was 13.

The girl was a former disciple of Cormier's church, Église du centre-ville (Church of Downtown Montreal), which sought out marginalized people living on the streets or addicted to drugs.

Cormier was arrested in 2003, after a social worker assigned to the girl's case alerted police about the situation.

The girl, who still can't be identified, was seated at the back of the courtroom and listened to a translation of the verdict with her mother.

She testified during the trial that she was too young to grasp Cormier's plan for a married life together and denied ever entering any sort of union with him. But Durand noted she did recall much of the sexual abuse in stark, vivid detail.

"They were criminal acts that caused a lot of consequences to the victim, some measurable and others that's not possible for us to put into evidence," Crown prosecutor Anne-Andrée Charette said outside the courtroom.

"He stole her childhood from her and it is something I'll try to sum up for the court at the sentencing."

Cormier has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing or being a pedophile, saying he is simply lovestruck for the youngster he called his wife.

He took an interest in her family starting in 1993, while he headed the church that catered to the marginalized.

That's where he met the girl's mother, at the time a recovering junkie and prostitute, taking her and her two young daughters under his wing.

The family described Cormier as a father figure who increasingly became a parental fixture in the girls' lives. The sisters frequently stayed with Cormier or vacationed with him and other church members.

But some church members began to grow suspicious of Cormier's relationship with the victim.

Cormier was arrested in 2003 after a social worker alerted police about the situation involving the girl.

The case has snaked its way through the system in part because of legal wrangling and numerous motions filed by the Crown and Cormier, who represented himself.

The victim refused to testify in the same courtroom as Cormier, instead doing so via a video link from an adjacent room.

Cormier was barred from cross-examining the girl or her mother and turned down an offer to submit a predetermined list of questions. He rested his case without further witnesses and did not testify himself.

"He had no defence concerning the acts and the offences that he committed," said Charette.

Cormier was taken into custody in June for breaking a court order that prohibited him from contacting the girl.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for late November and Charette has indicated she will seek prison time for Cormier.

Cormier faces two other charges of sexual assault in connection to another teenage girl. His trial on those charges is scheduled to start on Jan. 19, 2009.

He completely denies the allegations regarding the 16-year-old.

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