Peter Charlie Tsetta was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison Monday evening after previously being found guilty of raping two women just a month apart in the summer of 2017.
In August, Tsetta was convicted of raping Cynthia Grandjambe “over and over” in June 2017, as well as another unnamed woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, that May.
Justice Louise Charbonneau gave Tsetta a 66-month year sentence for the rape and unlawful confinement of Grandjambe and another 48-month sentence for the rape of the unnamed victim, who has since passed away.
Tsetta was in custody for 29 months before his trial began, so the time he has left to serve in prison was reduced by 43 months, reflecting the 1.5 days of credit courts give an accused for every day they spend behind bars awaiting a decision.
This means Tsetta still has to serve another 5 years and 11 months.
After the decision Grandjambe erupted in tears as she called her family members to notify them of the verdict.
“I’m so happy and relieved with that sentence,” she said on the phone.
Talking to reporters outside the courtroom Grandjambe said she was elated by the decision.
“I am totally satisfied. I would have settled for eight (years), I was praying for 10 but I had to be realistic and I’m proud of getting the nine-and-a-half.”
In October Grandjambe was successful in requesting that the publication ban on her name be lifted so she could speak on behalf of other victims.
“I want to give encouragement. I know it’s been a long and hard process but it’s worth it. He’s been found guilty,” Grandjambe told Yellowknifer at the time.
The Crown has been asking for a 10-year sentence while the defence, citing Tsetta’s difficult upbringing as an Indigenous man, sought five years.
In her ruling on Monday, Charbonneau explained there were several aggravating factors which called for a longer term than the defence was asking for.
She pointed to Tsetta’s extensive criminal record, which dates back to 1989. It includes numerous convictions for violent crimes: several for assault, a 1992 sexual assault and an aggravated assault in 2014, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Although she took into account the hardships which Tsetta faced growing up, she did not find those circumstances sufficient to ignore his previous record.
“Those circumstances were very sad,” she said. “I would not go so far as to say that his previous record should be discounted entirely.”
Charbonneau also pointed to the particularly aggressive nature and prolonged nature of the sexual assaults, referring to the repeated attacks on Grandjambe over a period of hours as “particularly callous” and a “very brutal offence.”
The fact that Grandjambe was confined and repeatedly raped before finally being let go also increased the severity of the sentence, according to Charbonneau.
The final, and least aggravating factor according to Charbonneau was the fact that Tsetta was under a court-ordered condition not to consume alcohol at the time of both assaults. In both cases, Tsetta was drinking when committing the offences.
During the sentencing Charbonneau also raised concerns that Tsetta did not seem to understand the severity of his offences. Referring to the pre-sentence report for which he was interviewed, Charbonneau said Tsetta was more concerned with resuming a friendship with Grandjambe than taking responsibility for the harm he inflicted upon her.
When questioned about Tsetta’s hopes of resuming a friendship with her, Grandjambe was unequivocal.
“Never in this lifetime,” she said. “He’s sick in the head if he thinks someone can rape someone over and over and then hold them hostage and then think that the person would want to be friends with him. That just shows how sick he is.”
As part of his sentence Tsetta must refrain from contacting Grandjambe. He will be registered as a sex offender, cannot own firearms for 10 years and submitted a DNA sample to the national registry.
Grandjambe told Yellowknifer that Tsetta’s sentence is just one more step on her path to healing. She said she has been receiving counselling and has been reaching out to other victims of sexual assault to help support them.
“It’s been hell but it’s also helped me too,” she said. “I’ve met some of his previous victims that I’m also fighting for. It’s not just for myself. That’s what has kept me going, knowing that it’s going to help his other victims as well as victims that are listening to what’s going on.”
Grandjambe said she is also considering taking civil action against Tsetta.