Canadian parole board members did not challenge factual misrepresentations made to them by one of Nova Scotia’s most notorious sex predators before their controversial decision last year that paved the way for his deportation to the U.S., where he could be freed in a matter of years.
The decision to grant dangerous offender William Shrubsall full parole on Nov. 7, 2018, has been questioned by prosecutors on both sides of the border who have been left wondering why the parole board would take such a chance with the high-risk offender.
New information from that parole hearing, obtained by CBC News through a source not authorized to speak publicly, sheds more light on what Shrubsall told the two parole board members, although it’s not clear what impact his false and misleading statements about his past crimes had on their final decision.
It also reveals that parole members did not query Shrubsall in detail about a former inmate he said he was planning to work for post-incarceration, a man who turns out to be a convicted sex offender.
Shrubsall was designated a dangerous offender by a Nova Scotia judge in 2001 for a string of violent crimes and brutal sex assaults while living in Halifax under an alias. He had fled Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1996, where he had been on trial for the 1995 sexual assault of a teenage girl.
John Muise, a former Parole Board of Canada member, said at the bare minimum parole members should draw attention in their decisions to significant lies made by offenders. He said he can’t understand why Shrubsall was granted full parole for deportation.
“There really hasn’t been in my estimation … any kind of significant change to overrule the public safety risk he presents,” said Muise, who was not involved in Shrubsall’s hearings but has reviewed his five parole board decisions since 2012.
Shrubsall was given an indeterminate prison sentence for his Canadian crimes. He was not eligible to apply for parole for seven years, and was to remain incarcerated until he was no longer deemed a threat to society. The onus was on him to prove so.
Shrubsall was deported to the U.S. in January. He is currently in an American prison serving time for the Niagara Falls sexual assault. He also faces a bail jumping charge, which he’s trying to have thrown out on the grounds his right to a speedy trial was violated.
But while the parole board cited in November the “many more years of incarceration” Shrubsall faces in the U.S. as a factor in granting him parole, the prosecutor handling his case in New York state has subsequently warned he will likely be released in fewer than five years.
At the November parole hearing, Shrubsall, 48, who now goes by the name Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod, downplayed his culpability in some of his Halifax crimes, such as the June 1998 incident at his residence at the Sigma Chi fraternity in the city’s south end that led to his arrest.
The courts found that when the victim in that case, K.C., tried to phone a cab to leave, Shrubsall beat, choked and sexually assaulted her.
But Shrubsall told his parole hearing they had been consensually kissing and undressing. He claimed he snapped when she told him she had a boyfriend, and that he had only physically assaulted her.
He also claimed at the hearing he had only been charged with sexual assault in the Niagara Falls case because his 17-year-old victim was drunk and couldn’t consent.
However, according to the 2001 dangerous offender ruling, the victim had been taken by a friend to her bedroom during a house party to recuperate because she was intoxicated. Shrubsall entered on the pretense of helping, then sexually assaulted her as she told him to stop.
Muise, who also serves as volunteer director of public safety for the advocacy group Abuse Hurts, said when an offender lies to parole board officials, it doesn’t bode well.
It speaks, he said, “to a lack of credibility, a lack of insight into the nature and consequence probably of their offending or their offence cycle, and attempt at manipulation of the parole board.”
He said he and many of his colleagues would have also drawn attention to the misrepresentations at the hearing itself by posing a simple question to the offender: “Sir, you understand that the description of the crime or the description of the offences is significantly different than the finding of the court. Is there anything you’d like to say about that?”
The source said the people who spoke at the parole hearing included a parole officer, the two parole board members hearing the case, Shrubsall and his lawyer, Nancy Charbonneau.
Neither audio recordings nor transcripts of parole board hearings are made available to journalists after hearings, while parole board members aren’t allowed to publicly comment on the decisions they make.
High risk to reoffend
Shrubsall claimed at his parole hearing there was a prior connection with his victims in all his Canadian cases involving sexual assault, the source said.
But one of those, in May 1998, involved a woman with whom he had no prior connection, aside from being in the same Halifax bar together. Shrubsall followed her home from the New Palace Cabaret, ambushed her and sexually assaulted her in a driveway. The beating was so severe the woman’s contact lenses had to be surgically removed.
At the parole hearing, the source said, one of the board members mentioned that Shrubsall’s file was 18,000 pages long.
His long criminal history dates back to his teenage years. He became notorious when in 1988, at age 17, he beat his mother to death with a baseball bat on the day before his high school graduation in Niagara Falls, where he was to be the valedictorian. He ended up serving 16 months.
The parole board’s November decision noted Shrubsall is a high risk to reoffend sexually and there’s no institutional programming that would reduce his risk to a point where it would be manageable in the community. The Correctional Service of Canada was against him being granted parole.
“While you have no problem acknowledging the violent side of your crimes, as you argue that your crimes were not sexually motivated,” the parole decision said. “At the end of the hearing, you admitted that your actions amounted to being sexually deviant but the board questions the sincerity of your admission.”
The decision also notes Shrubsall had completed all compulsory programs offered by Corrections Canada.
Parole Board of Canada response
In an email, Parole Board of Canada spokesperson Holly Knowles said the protection of society is the board’s paramount consideration and it is committed to thorough, rigorous and impartial risk assessments.
“Board members consider information from a wide range of sources such as police, the courts, mental health professionals, correctional authorities and victims,” she wrote.
“Board members also review risk assessment tools as part of a structured risk assessment framework. With regard to information that is presented at a hearing, board members must assess its reliability and persuasiveness.”
Shrubsall faces between 2⅓ and seven years in a U.S. prison for the Niagara Falls sexual assault. If convicted of bail jumping, he is expected to serve an additional 2⅓ to seven years. It would bring his total time behind bars in the U.S. to between four years and eight months and 14 years.
At the parole hearing, Shrubsall said he’d likely serve at least eight years, while Charbonneau said he’d serve at least two-thirds of his sentence — or almost 9½ years — the source said.
But Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek, who is prosecuting Shrubsall’s bail jumping charge, said those numbers are “pure speculation for his benefit” and led the parole board “to have a little more safety in their decision that he had significant time left to serve.”
Charbonneau did not respond to interview requests from CBC.
Wojtaszek said the most likely scenario is Shrubsall is out in fewer than five years, assuming he serves time for both charges. Her office, she said, was never contacted as part of parole proceedings and the only guarantee is that he serves 2⅓ years for the 1995 sexual assault.
“I would have loved to have explained that to the parole board, so that they could have really considered how little time he could possibly serve here,” she said.
She said a conviction for bail jumping is “not a certainty,” because of the delay prosecuting him after he fled to Halifax and his application regarding his right to a speedy trial. Shrubsall will be back in court Friday fighting the charge.
Once he’s out of prison, Shrubsall said he plans to settle in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had contacted four organizations about the post-incarceration supports they offer, the source said.
At the hearing, Shrubsall also said he had an offer to manage the accounting books for a trucking company being launched by Norman Walters.
Working for a sex offender
When the parole board members asked how Shrubsall knew Walters, he said he was incarcerated with him. But the two board members didn’t ask for additional information.
In July 2009, Walters, who is originally from Washington, D.C., pulled a knife on an Edmonton woman he met on the internet, threatened her and sexually assaulted her, according to a parole board decision related to his 2016 statutory release. He did the same to two other women over the course of the next few days.
He served a seven-year prison sentence for three counts of sexual assault, theft, forcible confinement and armed robbery. It isn’t clear where he is today. His statutory release decision also notes that charges of sexual assault, robbery and unlawful confinement were withdrawn in the U.S. in 2007.
Wojtaszek said she has a lot of concerns about Shrubsall working with Walters. For one, she can’t understand how if Shrubsall serves at least eight years, as he claimed he would, there would be a job waiting for him.
“Most importantly is that he would be on parole and most every parole I’ve ever seen has required that they stay away from other people who are convicted felons and been convicted of a crime,” she said. “I don’t know how he would even justify a job with another felon, let alone another sex offender.”
She said she’s going to do everything in her power to keep Shrubsall behind bars.
“I can tell you that we will fight for every day that he spends in jail because we know and certainly that parole board still acknowledged that he is a very, very dangerous man,” said Wojtaszek.