Standing outside on the steps of the Penticton courthouse, Benny Wolfe maintained he was not a threat to society.
On Thursday, Wolfe was sentenced to seven months in jail and two years probation after pleading guilty to obtaining sexual services of a person under 18.
“I regret what I did, I made a big mistake but I want the people of Penticton to know that I am not a danger to children, I’m not a danger to anyone,” he said staring downward. “I’ve been a law-abiding citizen all my life, I just made this drastic mistake and unfortunately it’s a severe mistake according to the Criminal Code and now I have to pay the penalty. I learn by my mistakes and this mistake will never happen again.”
Wolfe, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Penticton in 2008, was arrested after an undercover sting operation by RCMP revealed a 17-year-old girl was being forced into the sex-trade by her stepfather who ran his operation from a bus stop outside of the Penticton Soupateria.
Judge Meg Shaw said in her decision that on eight separate occasions Wolfe had paid for the girl’s services and indicated in his police statement that he told the girl he wanted to lock in her price of $100 long term. The teen confirmed the sexual acts did not involve aggression or violence and described Wolfe’s apartment as having numerous children’s toys in it, including Barbie dolls. In a pre-sentence report, Wolfe’s ex-wife said he was pre-occupied with young girls and collected pictures of them. Another collateral source in the report said Wolfe was known to take young transient people into his home.
Since he was charged Wolfe said he has been very careful, watching his own actions and hoped the judge would show some leniency.
“But I know that today I am going to be behind bars and I’m just going to have to set my mind to it, the way I’ve set my mind to other things in my life,” he said. “I’m used to living in small spaces and I don’t have any family so I’m used to being alone. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Because Penticton is a small town, he plans to move somewhere else when he is released from custody but did not say where.
“There’s no two ways about it, I regret what I did, I should have had better judgment,” said Wolfe.
A second man, Kenneth Toovey, also pled guilty to obtaining sexual services of a person under the age of 18 and was sentenced on Thursday to the mandatory minimum on this charge of six months in jail. This will be followed by one year of probation. Toovey, who has been living in Saskatoon since he was charged, was also caught in the RCMP undercover operation and admitted to paying the teen $60 for oral sex.
Probation conditions on the two men include no contact with the teen, not to be within 100 metres of the intersection of Martin Street and Orchard Avenue (where the Soupateria is located) except when travelling by vehicle past the location without stopping, not to be in the presence of anyone under 18 except with consent of the probation officer and they will be on the sexual offenders registry for 10 years.
Both of the men who pled guilty on Thursday had testified in the trial of the stepfather, who cannot be named in order to protect the teen’s identity. The 47-year-old stepfather was found guilty of numerous charges including sexual assault on the teen that carried on for five years. He will be sentenced in April. Rick Wyatt and Baldev Toor were also charged with obtaining sexual services of a person under 18 and are due back in court next month.
With files from Mark Brett