The sentencing hearing for the former owner of an Edmonton bar who sexually assaulted an employee began on Thursday.

Former Needle Vinyl Tavern owner James Leder previously pleaded guilty to sexual assault in the March 2017 incident.

Former employee Brittany Lyne Rudyck posted on social media that Leder had drunkenly groped her at the Jasper Avenue bar. She quit her job in November of that year and filed a complaint with police soon after leaving.

Leder pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge in June. His sentencing hearing began Thursday but was put over until a later date. 

"I'm devastated I have to wait another month to findout what the sentence will be," Rudyck said. 

The initially scheduled courtroom was deemed to be too small as supporters of both Rudyck and especially Leder, who appeared to have upward of 70 people backing him, turned out in force.

At one point, someone in the crowd yelled “Love ya, James” as court was adjourned.

Proceedings were eventually moved to a bigger courtroom. 

Rudyck told the court during a victim impact statement how she received hate messages and feared for her safety after coming forward.  

"I can still smell the alcohol on your breath," she said of the night she was groped. 

The Crown sought what it termed a "sharp, short" sentence of 30 days in jail plus probation as well as an order to take a workplace conduct program.

Prosecutors said Leder repeatedly groped Rudyck despite being told to stop, and then slapped a male employee who tried to intervene. 

Leder's lawyer pointed to his client's supporters in the courtroom and called the incident an "aberration of character rather than of representation." 

Outside of court, supporters of Leder said they felt it was necessary to come support their friend and former boss. 

"It did not need to get this far. This is really unfortunate," said Paula Oness, a former bartender at the establishment.

"I believe that today the courts did not show that James was guilty of anything," said Connie McCall, a friend of Leder's. "I believe this is a case that should be thrown out of court."

With files from Dan Grummett