A Toronto judge has acquitted former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi of all charges.
The former CBC radio star and host of the popular radio program ‘Q’ was facing four charges of sexual assault, and one count of overcoming resistance by choking, relating to three women.
In reading his judgment, the judge said cross-examination demonstrated “each complainant was less than full, frank & forthcoming in information they provided to media, police, counsel & court.”
Justice William Horkins said each complainant was revealed to not be credible and their evidence was tainted by outright deception.
Ghomeshi had pleaded not guilty to all charges, and claims while he has engaged in rough sex, it was always consensual.
The trial, which began February 1st and ran for eight days, attracted crowds along with intense media attention, and became a lightning rod for debate around how we handle sexual assault as a society.
Ghomeshi is still facing a single charge of sexual assault in a separate trial in June.
Timeline of the Jian Ghomeshi affair
Sarah Boesveld covered the Ghomeshi Trial for Chatelaine Magazine. She spoke with CKNW host Jill Bennett about the mood in the courtroom as the judge read the verdict.
“There was a lot of discomfort, I think, on that bench where the complainants were sitting. They’re really sitting through this hearing exactly what the judge thought throughout that time when they were really on the spot to tell their story and answer all the really incisive questions that Marie Henein had. And so to hear that the judge believed that you actively on purpose kept things a secret, or kept it out of court, gotta be not very easy to hear.”
Boesvald says it very emotional in the courtroom with a lot of tension and hard listening.
LISTEN to the full interview with Sarah Boesvald:
“I have never seen sexual assault complainants so damaged and so criticized.”
Former prosecutor Sandy Garrosino says today’s decision is clearly a setback for the prosecution of sexual assault in this country.
“I just think this sets back the dynamic enormously and I do think these witnesses, these particular witnesses bear responsibility and they should not be treated as children in this. They were mature people and had every opportunity to be forthright – and resisted it.”
She says a perjury charge against one of the complainants is not out of the question.
As for the victims of sexual violence, the message is simple – always be truthful and give out all of the information you have to police and the prosecutors.
LISTEN to the full interview with Sandy Garrosino:
Kyla Lee with Acumen Law says the Ghomeshi verdict might throw roadblocks up for sexual assault survivors to step forward.
However Lee says it boils down to women not withholding information as the witnesses in the Ghomeshi trial did.
“And if they are brave enough to tell all of the details at the outset and to make sure that they are not withholding something out of fear that it will make them look bad. Those are the types of cases that lead to convictions. Even where illogical things happen such as contact after the incident with the perpetrator, that type of stuff, at least it is out there and the person has been up front about it so they don’t look like they are trying to mislead the court, which is what happened here.”
Lee says the case is important because the judge laid a foundation for justice to be done in future cases.
LISTEN to the full interview with Kyla Lee:
But no one could have predicted the courtroom twists that could have been taken from a Hollywood movie.
Ghomeshi’s defence dropped several bombshells that left spectators reeling, and raised questions about how the prosecution handled and prepared its witnesses.
This is due in part to the aggressive defense strategy Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, has pursued and built while attacking his accusers’ credibility.
One of the most dramatic turns in the trial came early, when Henein accused the first complainant of lying in court.
The woman, who can’t be named, alleges that Ghomeshi had aggressively pulled her head back on one date, and punched her repeatedly in the head on another.
She had initially testified that afterwards she was traumatized every time she heard Ghomeshi’s voice on the radio or saw him on TV.
But Henein produced ‘flirty’ emails the accuser had written to the radio star, including one with a photo of her in a bikini.
When pressed, the accuser told the court they had been written to “bait” Ghomeshi into meeting so she could confront him about the alleged incidents.
LISTEN: Jon McComb and Maclean’s Journalist Anne Kingston break down the trial’s first two days
Ghomeshi wasn’t the only celebrity in court. Among his accusers, and the only woman to waive her right to a publication ban, was “Trailer Park Boys” actor Lucy DeCoutere.
She is accusing Ghomeshi of shoving her against the wall, then hitting and choking her.
But she too faced a grilling from Henein, who focused on why, if DeCoutere had been attacked, she stayed at Ghomeshi’s house for an hour after the incident – listening to music and kissing him good bye – then failing to report the incident to police.
Henein also produced letters and emails DeCoutere wrote to Ghomeshi over a period of years after the alleged incident.
Some were written mere hours afterward, including one which read “you kicked my ass last night” and said she wanted to “f— your brains out.”
One letter that closed “I love your hands,” drew gasps in the court room.
None had been disclosed until cross examination.
LISTEN: Lynda Steele and Sara Boesveld talk about DeCoutere’s day on the stand
Questions of collusion?
Ghomeshi’s third accuser alleges he bit her and squeezed her neck while they were kissing on a park bench.
During the trial she admitted she had had a later sexual encounter with Ghomeshi, that hadn’t previously been disclosed to police.
But the real bombshell came when the defence asked about her relationship with DeCoutere.
The two are friends, and the complainant had initially claimed they had not discussed Jian Ghomeshi with each other.
But when pressed by Heinein, she admitted they had spoken about the allegations against him, both before and after the trial started.
What happens next for Ghomeshi professionally?
Ghomeshi is unlikely to return to the airwaves anytime soon, even if the former CBC celebrity wanted to return to the public eye.
In that case the CBC can consider itself not obligated to take him back, despite today’s acquittal.
Ronan Reinart, a media lawyer with Bell Alliance says Ghomeshi’s former network , like any company, is allowed to dismiss an employee under what’s called “for cause” …
And “for cause” can have a number of interpretations, but of course one of them would be well recognized as an employee exhibiting behaviour that either falls below a recognized and published standard of the organisation, or that otherwise is against its general policies.”
Early on in this saga, Ghomeshi filed for wrongful dismissal against the network but the civil suit was dismissed with costs in favour of CBC.
With files from Anna Kalfa and Simon Little