Maple Ridge man says sorry for brutal rape

Mitchell Pratt has no memory of assault, pleads guilty, sentenced to three more years.

Wringing his hands and staring at the wall ahead, Mitchell Pratt struggled to apologize to the girl he raped.

Dressed in red prison-issued sweats and a T-shirt, his face flushed as he nervously addressed the judge.

“I feel terrible,” said Pratt, pausing at length as the victim and her family, as well as his mother and aunt watched him from the gallery.

“I want to keep apologizing but I don’t want it to come out wrong. I am going to do everything I can to make it better.”

Pratt, who pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault causing bodily harm, was handed an additional three years and 146 days in prison for the crime.

In a statement to a probation officer who prepared his pre-sentence report, he again articulated his remorse.

“This is the worst feeling you could feel. I feel like a failure as a person. This is the worst thing I have ever done. There are no words. If I could change anything, I would, not because of the situation I am in, but because of the pain I have caused her and her family.”

The 20-year-old has been in custody since he was arrested in March 2010, one day after sexually assaulting a 21-year-old stranger in a cemetery in Maple Ridge.

Drunk and high on ecstasy while committing the “vicious” assault, Pratt has no memory of the night.

He encountered the woman around 11 p.m. on March 27, 2010 while she was riding a bike home from work on a footpath along Lougheed Highway.

As the woman slowed down to pass Pratt, he stopped the bike by putting his foot in front of a tire and shoved her into a ditch where he began to hit and threaten her.

Pratt then led her across the highway. Bleeding from her lip and scared, the woman asked a man walking past for help as Pratt pulled her into the parking lot of an animal hospital.

The man walked past and ignored her repeated pleas.

Once in the parking lot, she started to scream, but quietened after Pratt threatened to kill her.

He eventually led her through a thicket of bushes, where he punched her in the jaw and took her into a cemetery, where he removed her coat, shoes and pants, then raped her.

The court heard the woman eventually convinced Pratt to leave the secluded cemetery, suggesting they go to a house.

“This was in no sense consent on her part,” Judge Deirdre Pothecary said before she sentenced Pratt.

“This was her way of trying to save herself. It was her strength of being able to keep herself in survival mode.”

Then, Pratt led the woman out of the cemetery and carried her part way to the house where he lived with his mother, three younger brothers and little sister.

His mother answered the door and told the visibly hurt and shoeless young woman with him she could not come inside.

Pratt’s mother pulled her son inside the house and shut the door.

Disoriented, cut and bruised, the young woman managed to find her way back to the highway, where she retrieved her bike from the ditch and rode home, where she reported the rape to her father.

She gave police enough information to locate Pratt.

Police found DNA from her on him. They also found her coat and boots in the cemetery.

Since Pratt has no memory of the rape, a preliminary inquiry was called, during which the young woman was cross-examined by Pratt’s lawyer. Pratt eventually entered a plea.

An aboriginal man with a lengthy record that includes convictions as a youth for assault, break-and-enters and failing to comply with court orders, a pre-sentence report reveal that Pratt’s life took a turn for the worse after his cousin, Darnell Pratt, was arrested in 2005 for a now infamous gas-and-dash robbery that took the life of gas station attendant Grant de Patie in Maple Ridge.

At the time of the sexual assault, Mitchell Pratt was on probation.

“He has been on probation for essentially all of his life starting at age 15,” said Judge Pothecary.

“The reality is, he is young man with a very, very, very challenging record.”

Crown requested a sentence of five or six years for the rape, while defence requested two years, in addition to time served, plus a three-year probation order.

Judge Pothecary made Pratt read a statement from the victim, written by her father, before she sentenced him.

“I am satisfied that Mr. Pratt is genuinely remorseful,” said Judge Pothecary. “His counsel is quite right – he is not a lost cause. If he can deal with his demons, he has the potential for a solid and successful future.”

Pratt’s DNA will be entered into a sex offenders database, where it will remain for 20 years. He was also handed a life-time firearms ban.

Outside court, the victim’s father said he was satisfied with the sentence and thankful for his daughter’s strength.

“He has changed our lives,” he said.

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