by Sarah Payne, Tri-City News
Former Coquitlam substitute teacher Aleksandr Plehanov has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a six-year-old Surrey girl in 2013, just five months after he was acquitted on similar charges involving five young girls in the Tri-Cities.
Justice Murray Blok found Plehanov not guilty of touching a person under the age of 16 for a sexual purpose, however, in a decision issued on Friday at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
At his trial in October, the court heard Plehanov was with a friend and his family in Surrey on Easter Sunday in 2013 when the girl fell as she reached for some candy. As Plehanov caught her, he touched her pelvic area and buttocks and put his hand inside the front of her waistband.
Crown counsel argued the touching was not an unintended outcome of saving the girl from a fall but the defence, while acknowledging the touching did occur, said it was not for a sexual purpose.
The 2013 incident isn’t the first time Plehanov has been accused of touching a young girl inappropriately.
In 2010, Plehanov was charged with 10 counts of sexual interference of a person under 16 and sexual assault involving five girls in the Tri-Cities, all of whom were girls aged seven and eight and who were students in classes where he was a substitute teacher. A charge of criminal harassment was added later, when he was allegedly spotted in his car outside the home of one of the girls.
After a two-week trial in fall 2012, the judge acquitted Plehanov on all counts. Judge David St. Pierre said the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Plehanov was anything but an ineffectual teacher who didn’t grasp the boundaries of student-teacher relationships.
Plehanov had been warned several times that some of his contact with children was inappropriate but St. Pierre said from the evidence presented during the trial it was impossible to say whether the contact was incidental or could be proven as criminal.
Plehanov’s next court appearance will be on Jan. 21 to fix a date for sentencing. Defence lawyer Lisa Jean Helps said she intends to challenge the constitutionality of the mandatory one-year minimum sentence for sexual assault of a person under 16.