Sarnia Courthouse (BlackburnNews.com File Photo)

Former Catholic principal guilty of indecent assault

A former Catholic elementary principal in Sarnia pleaded guilty Thursday to the indecent assault of a teenage girl 40 years ago.

Joseph Albert Firlotte, 78, admitted to assaulting a female while on a camping trip in Lambton County in 1977.

He was handed a suspended sentenceĀ and placed on probation for two years.

The victim, who was 13 at the time and now resides out of province, is encouraging women to not be afraid to report abuse.

Speaking to BlackburnNews.com, the woman, whose identity is subject to a publication ban, was asked whether the sentence was enough.

“No, but in this circumstance probably so,” she said. “There were so many factors involved. I wasn’t there at the courthouse, the case is 41 years old, I’m not well. It’s very difficult. I would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime happened in Canada. That’s very hard to prove, although it did. I sure didn’t want to see him get a not guilty verdict because I could not handle that.”

The woman, who explained that the accused was trying to say that the crime had happened in Michigan, said she feels a sense of closure now that the sentence has been handed down.

“I’m glad it’s all over and I’m glad justice has prevailed, and a pedophile is being called out,” she said. “I’m hoping that other women and young girls see that this is not acceptable, and they are allowed to come forward. I’m hoping that other men and women that would commit a crime such as this would think twice before doing so and perhaps get help.”

She said she wants other victims, male and female, to feel confident in coming forward.

“The whole thing is just absolutely awful. I don’t like what’s going on in the world today,” she said. “We have to educate our children better, and hopefully more people will see what happened today and get more educated about this, especially with the ‘Me Too’ movement happening. That began well after me, but it’s brought some light to what’s going on.”

Sarnia police started an investigation into the Firlotte case in June of 2017.

They would like to speak with any other potential victims. Contact the Criminal Investigation Branch atĀ 519-344-8861 ext. 5300.

-With files from Dave Dentinger