Former Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold pleaded guilty on Monday to four counts of sexual assault against four individuals in B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers.
Strimbold had faced 29 charges including sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching involving boys under the age of 16, stemming from alleged incidents from May 2009 to July 2017.
“Mr. Strimbold chose not to go to trial so everyone involved can begin the healing process and that the four individuals and the community can start to move forward,” said his lawyer, Stan Tessmer, in a statement.
At the behest of both the Crown and defence, Justice Wendy Baker ordered a pre-sentence report with a psychological evaluation and tentatively scheduled sentencing for Sept. 23. Prosecutor Jeff Campbell said the remaining 25 counts would be stayed following sentencing.
The four counts to which Strimbold pleaded guilty were amended prior to the pleas, making them what’s known as “global charges” for multiple incidents over a period of years that occurred with each of the four victims.
For the first victim, the incidents occurred between May 1, 2016 and Aug. 31 2017. The second person was assaulted between July 1-31, 2016. Dates for the third victim ranged from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2017. For the final victim, the dates were May 1, 2014 to April 30, 2017. Some of the incidents occurred while he was still in office.
Strimbold was stoic, confident and polite during the proceeding. Some members of the gallery were visibly distressed as they left the courtroom.
Strimbold was elected mayor in 2011 at the age of 21, the youngest person to be elected to the position of mayor in B.C. In 2013, he was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for community service. He was re-elected in 2014, and BC Business Magazine named him one of the Top 30 leaders under the age of 30 for his work diversifying the economy in the Burns Lake area following the collapse of the forestry industry.
He stepped down abruptly, both as mayor and membership chair for the BC Liberal Party, in 2016, saying he wanted to further his education and spend more time with his family.
He was arrested and charged in February 2018.