HALIFAX - Suspended Halifax lawyer Lyle Howe has been sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting a young woman three years ago – a conviction that is now under appeal.
In Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Wednesday, Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy accepted a joint recommendation of a three-year sentence from defence attorney Phil Star and the Crown, calling it “sound.”
Kennedy said that Howe used his position as a lawyer to “effectively seduce” the 19-year-old victim, which he considered an aggravating factor.
“His actions were despicable and eventually criminal,” Kennedy said.
Although the girl had been “skeptical” about meeting Howe and his friend for a date, Kennedy said she testified that she thought because Howe was a lawyer “he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his career.
“It turned out that he would, and he did,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said even in the absence of a criminal record, the range of sentencing for sexual assault in Nova Scotia would generally not warrant less than two years’ federal time.
In May, a jury found Howe guilty of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman but acquitted him of the charge of administering a stupefying substance.
Howe testified he’d had consensual sex with the woman, but the Crown argued she was impaired and did not give consent.
Before the sentence was delivered, Howe told the court he was “certainly not proud” of what he did.
“I am remorseful for my actions,” Howe said. “I didn’t believe it was criminal but … I’m embarrassed by it.”
Crown attorney Dan Rideout said mitigating factors, such as Howe’s clean record and a pre-sentence report showing family and community support, were taken into consideration when making the sentencing recommendation.
Rideout told reporters outside court a second aggravating factor was the “intrusiveness” of the sexual assault, noting Howe admitted to having oral, vaginal, and anal sex with the victim.
She testified she did not consent to those acts or remember them.
Outside court, Star told reporters he agreed to a joint recommendation because it wasn’t “likely” Howe would receive a lesser sentence.
He also filed a notice of appeal Wednesday afternoon on Howe’s behalf.
David Sparks, spokesman for a group supporting Howe, told reporters he believes Howe was not tried by a “jury of his peers,” because there was only one black juror in the trial.
“It’s not over yet,” Sparks said. “I think he will be ultimately vindicated.”
In court, Kennedy said he was satisfied the jury’s decision was supported by evidence and “they were thoughtful, and they were careful, and they were correct.”
Howe will also provide a DNA sample, be placed on the sex offender registry, and prohibited from owning guns.
The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has suspended Howe’s license to practice.