Former Tahoe resident headed to jail for sex crime spree
A former attorney who sometimes worked in South Lake Tahoe as a ski patroller and substitute teacher will probably spend the rest of his life in a Canadian prison for a 20-year spree of sex crimes and violence against children.
James William Robertson, 58, who committed those crimes before moving to Santa Barbara in 1986, was given an indeterminate sentence – potentially a life term – Friday, by a judge in Victoria, British Columbia.
Supreme Court Justice Allan Melvin concluded Robertson is a “dangerous offender” who is unlikely to “control his sexual impulses” if released in the foreseeable future.
Evidence presented in court “leads one inexorably to the conclusion that the offender is a pedophile,” Melvin wrote in a 47-page ruling.
The victims of Robertson’s crimes, committed between 1966 and 1986, included boys and girls ranging in age from 4 to 17, said Crown Counsel Dana Urban, the trial prosecutor.
Robertson, an attorney in Canada and in California for two decades before he was first arrested in February 1997, was convicted by a jury last fall of 16 counts of sexually assaulting and beating children. Urban described Robertson’s crimes as “prolonged evil” ranging from rape to whipping children with sticks and straps.
None of the victims disclosed anything about those crimes until early 1997, however, the Canadian prosecutor said.
“One person came forward because she got older, became aware he was teaching kids in California and felt she had a duty to those children,” Urban said. “Her purpose was to ensure he wasn’t going to do this to anyone else.”
Robertson worked sporadically between March 1995 and March 1997 as a substitute teacher for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said Superintendent Rich Alexander. He was unsure what grade levels Robertson taught.
While living in Santa Barbara, Robertson was a practicing attorney on a limited basis and lived for years in a trailer park. He also worked sporadically as a substitute teacher for several Santa Barbara area schools, usually at the junior high or high school levels.
After his arrest, his California teaching credential was suspended – and eventually revoked – because of his crimes. He has been in custody since July 1997.
When he took the stand during his trial, Robertson flatly denied all of the allegations against him and claimed the victims were lying.
“Some of these people hadn’t had any contact with him for 28 years,” Urban said. “What would be their motive to lie?”
The prosecutor said Robertson’s victims are relieved by the outcome of the case and that he may never get out of prison. “It’s been a long process for them,” he said. “This is now behind them.”
The indeterminate sentence means Robertson must remain behind bars “until he can establish that it is safe to return him to society,” Urban explained. “Most dangerous offenders are never released.”In his view, that punishment fits Robertson’s crimes. “I think justice has been done in this case,” Urban said. “The trauma he inflicted on all those children just calls for the denunciation of what he did.”
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