In an unexpected turn of events, a sexual assault case, relating to a man who identifies himself as a traditional Indigenous healer, has taken a fresh direction. Cecil Wolfe, who faces 12 counts of sexual assault from the period of 2013-2021 for his practices as a self-professed medicine man, had his guilty pleas expunged by Judge Sanjeev Anand on Tuesday.
Wolfe had previously, last year, accepted guilt in response to all charges, but sought to reverse his pleas mid-trial on firing his lawyer, Loretta Pete Lambert. His request to overturn his pleas was granted by Judge Anand, who clarified that Wolfe’s guilty admissions were ruled out as “uninformed.”
Delving into this decision, Judge Anand pointed out that Lambert had failed to communicate the full ramifications of Wolfe’s guilt pleas. As the legal official pointed out, Wolfe did not know that he was acquiescing to a nine-and-a-half-year prison term, a truth he suggested would have persuaded Wolfe to approach his case differently.
Judge Anand further revealed that Lambert had not clarified to Wolfe that his convictions come with supplementary stipulations such as registering as a sex offender. Wolfe, who is said to possess limited formal education, had pled guilty primarily based on Lambert’s advice.
According to Judge Anand, Lambert did not sufficiently detail the advantages and drawbacks of selecting a trial in the Court of King’s Bench, nor was Wolfe offered the option of a jury trial. The judge concluded that due to Lambert’s ineffective assistance, the treatment of Mr. Wolfe was “fundamentally unfair.”
The decision to expunge the guilty pleas did not go down well with everyone; it left one of Wolfe’s alleged victims, who was present in the gallery, in tears. Wolfe’s accusers, 12 former patients, had sought his help for a range of health problems such as stomach ailments, infertility, and cancer. Allegedly, Wolfe used his position to take advantage of these women, claiming to extract “bad medicine” from within them via invasive physical means.
In light of the expunged pleas, Wolfe is now permitted to enter new pleas to the charges, offering room to plead guilty to some accusations while denying others. The case is set to reconvene at the Saskatoon Provincial Court on September 25, with Harvey Neufeld representing Wolfe as his new counsel.