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Ex-high school teacher guilty of sexually assaulting, exploiting teen student

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Former high school teacher Tania Pontbriand has been found guilty of sexually assaulting and sexually exploiting one of her students while in a position of authority.

The ex-gym teacher at Rosemere High School remained stone-faced as Quebec Court Judge Valmont Beaulieu handed down his ruling at the St. Jerôme courthouse. There were stunned looks and murmurs from about a half dozen of her supporters in the courtroom. The victim, now in his 20s, was not present.

Pontbriand was arrested in 2008 — six years after the crimes began. The male student was 15 at the time; Pontbriand was 32. The relationship lasted from 2002 to 2004. The victim had said he had sex with Pontbriand 200 to 300 times in several places: in her car, at highway rest stops, her office, the closet near her office. He cannot be identified because he was a minor at the time.

In a hefty 155-page ruling, the judge concluded that while the victim's testimony contained some contradictions and omissions, Beaulieu said he had to weigh all of the evidence. The judge concluded he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Pontbriand was guilty of all three charges against her.

"The court is convinced that the accused used (the victim) for her sexual satisfaction, thus exploiting his naiveté, lack of maturity, his dependence on and trust in her while he was her student," wrote the judge.

Beaulieu also said that the evidence convinces him that the accused dominated the victim who was completely dependent on her, resulting in him giving her his trust, isolating himself from his friends, losing interest in his studies and fighting with his mother.

Beaulieu said the accused volontarily did not worry about the psychological state of the victim who quickly became "an object" to satisfy her "sexual appetite"by using him to her benefit until she ended it.

The judge also reasoned that even though they were no longer teacher-student near the end of the relationship, he found Pontbriand guilty of sexual assault because of the absence of consent and breach of trust, citing a deep inequality between the accused and the victim.

"Of course the crown prosecutor is really happy with the judge's decision as is the victim. I contacted him earlier to tell him the decision," crown prosecutor Caroline Lafleur told reporters.

The defence did not comment on the ruling. The judge ordered a pre-sentencing report for early May. Pontbriand remains free on bail until then.