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Sask. man accused of sexually assaulting residents at group home facing more charges

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A Saskatchewan man is now facing two more charges for the alleged sexual abuse that took place at a Hepburn, Sask. group home, believed to have happened between 1992 and 2009.

Brent Gabona has been charged with five counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability for incidents alleged to have occurred at Shepherd's Villa.

Crown prosecutor Lana Morelli presented new information in the Rosthern provincial courtroom on Wednesday, saying Gabona is now facing two additional charges of sexual exploitation while being in a position of trust or authority of a person with a disability.

Morelli says those charges didn’t exist before June 30, 1998, so the charge date was changed.

“When I reviewed the file, I believe it applied to all of the victims so that’s why we did it,” she told CTV News.

Gabona appeared without a lawyer, telling the courtroom he’s been “lost in the process.” He was seen softly crying and emotional in the courtroom while explaining his financial situation to the judge, saying he has a vague idea of the expected costs.

Gabona admitted the legal process brought him to the “realization of what he’s facing” and he doesn’t know “what to do or where to turn.”

He said he was considering selling his home to pay off his debts and legal fees. The Crown told him he’d be facing up to $100,000 in legal fees.

The judge told Gabona she was worried if he’d be able to cover the legal fees as he is facing “serious charges.” He was ordered to pay $200 a month for a court-appointed lawyer and to keep the court updated.

Parents of one of the residents, Al and Naomi Hawkins, were also in the courtroom and said they’re finally glad he’s getting a lawyer.

“I didn’t really feel like sitting through 40 minutes of listening to his financial situation, but I guess that’s part of the process,” Naomi said.

The couple’s son Derek was under Gabona’s care while he lived at Shepherd’s Villa between 2003 and 2005.

In June, Meadow Lake RCMP opened up a case in their son’s name as the Hawkins family believes he was subject to or witness to the alleged sexual assaults. The family says they will continue to show up to court to hold Gabona accountable.

“I could care less about his financial situation, that’s how I feel,” Al said.

Al says the court system is giving Gabona “all the grace in the world” to proceed in the court proceedings.

“Because he’s not a victim, he may be portrayed as one but he’s not. And with his situation, the victims are the ones he assaulted and were subject to or witnessed his assaults,” Al said.

Gabona’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 28 where he is expected to have a court-appointed lawyer. 

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