Sentence appeal disallowed for former fire chief

Former Kingsville Fire Chief Robert Kissner, left, leaves court on April 16, 2019 after being convicted on nine sex-related charges. Photo by Mark Brown, Blackburn News.

A Kingsville former fire chief convicted of sex-related crimes won’t have his sentence changed.

According to a decision filed last week by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, a request by Robert Kissner to appeal his 60-month sentence has been denied.

Kissner and his lawyer, Wendy Dutcher-Walls, argued that Ontario Superior Court Justice Pamela Hebner made a mistake by “considering his abuse of authority as an aggravating factor in sentencing.”

According to the decision, obtained by Blackburn News, the former Kingsville fire chief did not adequately prove that Hebner was in error, and the sentence was just.

“Under the circumstances, the sentence is fit,” read the decision. “The appellant was sentenced to 60 months for sexual offences involving three youths and one adult. While not involving penetration, his actions reflected a continuing course of conduct over a number of years and caused serious consequences to the victims. The sentences were within the appropriate range and fit.”

Kissner was convicted in April 2019 on five counts of sexual assault and four counts of sexual exploitation. Over the course of two decades, Kissner used his position of authority to inappropriately and sexually touch up to eight men, some of them minors at the time of the occurrence.

In addition to the 60-month sentence, Hebner also ordered Kissner to provide a DNA sample for the national sex offender database, and he will remain in the database as a registered sex offender the rest of his life.

“Here, young men who were interested in a career in firefighting were groomed and abused by the appellant,” read the decision. “He was the fire chief in charge of hiring. He acted as mentor to the victims. These are not irrelevant factors in sentencing and the trial judge was entitled to consider these factors as she did.”

Kissner was acquitted on eight other charges. Similar charges brought forth by a different complainant were withdrawn by the crown attorney on May 7. There are no outstanding charges.