George Sanderson. Photo courtesy Facebook.

Surprise pleas were entered on Tuesday in a James Smith Cree Nation and Sturgeon Lake molestation case.

The offender, 23-year-old George Sanderson, has pleaded guilty to five charges: two of sexual interference, one of making child pornography and two of distributing child pornography. This relates to boys who were between the ages of 13 and 15 when Sanderson first started communicating with them via Snapchat and Facebook, and his offences occurred on both reserves. The identity of all victims are protected by a publication ban.

Sanderson’s offences included one young teen victim who he started a sexual relationship with in early 2015, a 15-year-old victim who Sanderson took explicit images and videos of before July of 2016, and a 14-year-old victim who he kissed and touched sexually on a James Smith school playground in October of 2016.

All images Sanderson sent via Snapchat were sent to other victims, and the images and video of the third were found on Sanderson’s iPad after he told his first victim that “he was dating another person” – the 15-year-old victim – but told the first victim that he “would end the relationship in order to be with” him, according to documents sent to MBC by Crown Prosecutor Shawn Blackman.

The Internet Child Exploitation Unit investigation into Sanderson’s activities started after a complaint came in on Oct. 20, 2016 and he was arrested eight days later. Sanderson was denied bail on Nov. 3, 2016.

The matters were set to go to a preliminary hearing this week in Prince Albert court, but lawyers instead came to court geared with a joint submission.

Blackman says the Prince Albert judge accepted the agreed three-year sentence, which comes with two years of probation and strict orders to stay away from parks and playgrounds for 20 years. Sanderson will also not be allowed to be in a position of trust or authority with anyone under the age of 16.

Plans to go to trial were nixed and an agreement reached due to “a number of factors such as strengths and weaknesses of the Crown case, possible Defences and Charter Applications associated strengths and weaknesses,” Blackman wrote in an e-mail.

Because of time served, the remainder of Sanderson’s sentence falls just under two years, and it’s expected he will serve his time at the Prince Albert Correctional Centre.

Sanderson’s lawyer Ron Piche could not be reached for comment in time for publication.