Ghomeshi trial to begin in Toronto

Updates on the high-profile case of Jiam Ghomeshi, a disgraced CBC reporter who has allegedly sexually assaulted seven women, five of whom will be taking him to court on four counts of sexual-assualt and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.

Former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi stood trial in Toronto on Feb. 1 for a series of charges, including sexual assault. Ghomeshi, a once rising star at CBC radio had his professional career cut short following allegations of sexual assault and abuse two years ago.

In the two years leading up to the trial, Ghomeshi, the former host of Q, has kept to himself, choosing not to comment on the allegations and only appearing before the courts to plead not guilty to the four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. All of the related allegations are alleged to have occurred during 2002-2003.Currently, Ghomeshi spends most days at his mother’s house, part of the condition of his $100,000 bail.

If convicted, Ghomeshi could face a life-sentence in prison due to the serious allegation of the assault-choking charge which carries a heavy sentence.

According to The Ontario Court Trial, the case has been given approximately three weeks and is expected to gain widespread media attention. It’s been two years since the 48 year old Ghomeshi was convicted of the charges.

Defending Ghomeshi in the trial is Toronto lawyer, Marie Henein, a expert in high-profile sexual assault cases. Henein was part of the legal team responsible for getting former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan acquitted in 1998 on various charges pertaining to sexual assault. In addition, Henein also defended junior hockey coach David Frost, who was found not guilty in 2008 on four charges of sexual exploitation in the Ontario Court of Justice. She also successfully defended former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant who had been charged with criminal negligence, causing the death of a cyclist after an altercation.

As it stands, Ghomeshi has two trials scheduled for this year, the first being on Feb 1 and the second trial being slated for an undisclosed date in June on another charge of sexual assault. In total, Ghomeshi faces five counts of sexual assault as two charges were dropped in May as the Crown stated that there were no reasonable grounds to convict.

Ghomeshi pre-trial / The Other

Ghomeshi pre-trial / The Other

The charges Ghomeshi is facing currently stem from various complaints made by three different women, one of which stated on the record that she had been sexually assaulted at least two times.

While the other two women’s identities are currently protected by a publication ban, one of the complainants, actress Lucy Decoutere,known for her role as Lucy in Trailer Park Boys, has appeared in court to waive this right.

According to Decoutere, in an interview with CBC, Ghomeshi allegedly physically attacked her following a date with him in 2003. Allegedly, Ghomeshi attacked her, taking her by the throat and pressing her up against a wall as he started slapped her across the face several times.

Adding to the difficult nature of the case, Decoutere allegedly did not tell Ghomeshi to stop and it was not until after she started to make a distinct facial expression, that he then proceeded to stop. Following the alleged incident, Decoutere left within the hour and proceeded to see Ghomeshi two more times that weekend with no further violent incidents occurring.

These allegations surfaced in 2014 when CBC fired Ghomeshi in October after several executives saw what they have since described as “graphic evidence”, consisting of various video, picture and textual evidence of his attitude and abuse against women.

In response, Ghomeshi admitted to casually engaging in rough sex with various partners, claiming that this was always consensual. Following this, media sources quickly went on the offensive running several stories of the women Ghomeshi had apparently had sexual encounters with, all of whom stated that they had been physically and sexually attacked by him without their consent.

According to various lawyers involved in the case, the Crown may call on certain women to testify; something that may make it increasingly apparent that Ghomeshi perhaps has done more than engage in “causal rough sex” with these women.

Despite this, Ghomeshi is under no legal obligation to speak at the trial, especially if Henein and his A-lister team of lawyers feel the Crown has not proven its case. Essentially, if there is reasonable doubt in regards to the testimonies of the witnesses, the defense will attempt to leverage this with an acquittal.

“Credibility cases are very difficult to prove because a judge needs to listen to two versions of events, likely maybe more than two, and decide, has the Crown proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt?” stated Joseph Di Luca, vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “I was surprised by how violent the allegations against him were,” stated Jim Hounslow, an employee of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and one of several of Ghomeshi’s accusers, told the Guardian. “But I wasn’t shocked by how many. I was really expecting more allegations to come out.”

“I wanted to be supportive, to encourage others to come out,” Hounslow told The Guardian. “I also wanted to show that [Ghomeshi] had a history of assaulting people who worked with him … There was a long history of this behavior.”

AML \ Promo picture for Q.

AML \ Promo picture for Q.

Discussing how this trial has affected him mentally, Hounslow stated that, “I just felt sickened for a couple of weeks,” he recalled. “Nauseous and worried about the people I knew who had dated him.” But as more women came forward, his worries turned into empathy and admiration.

“Some of them are just very brave to put their names and faces out there in connection with these charges,” he said. “I felt it was all very cathartic.”

Hounslow, a student when the alleged assaults occurred said that he will be following the trial, but also just wishes for everything to be all over; the case having been on-going for to long according to Hounslow.

If convicted of the several charges of sexual assault, Ghomeshi faces a maximum sentence of 18 month normally. However, due to the fact that the case itself is an indictable offence as well as the choking charge present, he runs the risk of between a 10 year to a life time sentence due to the nature of the crimes.

Feb. 1 Trial Updates:

As the trial began in Toronto, Ontario court Judge William Horkins said,“To state the obvious, this trial has attracted an extraordinary amount of media attention… My focus will be what happens inside this courtroom.”

“My default position is transparency,” Horkins said, “The exhibits will be made available”, stating he was mindful of the potential sensitivity of some evidence and would leave it to lawyers to flag any problems.

Despite this, one of the women’s lawyers expressed her concern over her perceived client’s privacy rights; stressing the importance respecting her client’s rights before her story is “disseminated to the whole world.”

According to Gillian Hnatiw, DeCoutere’s lawyer, the proceedings deals with issues that are “deeply personal in nature”, but her client is allegedly in the dark as to what specifics of her case might be addressed in court.

Ghomeshi’s lead defense lawyer, Marie Henein, started the day by pushing the open-court principle, and also noted that DeCoutere and her lawyers had given “no less than 24 media interviews”.

“This is not the Wild West,” Henein said. “We are equally concerned and anxious that the open-court principle be respected.”

 

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