Judge Finds Jian Ghomeshi Not Guilty In Sex Assault Case

Photo: David Cooper/Getty Images.
Jian Ghomeshi leaves College Park Court after his appearance on January 8, 2015. To date, more than 20 people have accused Ghomeshi of behavior ranging from inappropriate texting and groping to violent punching, choking, and biting.
Update: A judge has found Jian Ghomeshi not guilty on all counts, the CBC reports. The decision was announced by Judge William Horkins in the Ontario Court of Justice. "The harsh reality is that once a witness has been shown to be deceptive and manipulative in giving their evidence, that witness can no longer expect the court to consider them to be a trusted source of the truth," Horkins said. "Put simply, the volume of serious deficiencies in the evidence leaves the court with a reasonable doubt." Horkins emphasized that his ruling "is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened." Ghomeshi himself did not speak as he exited the building; however, his sister Jila made a brief statement, saying "We hope that Jian and our family will be given the privacy and dignity to slowly heal from a process that has been extremely difficult." Protesters crowded outside the courthouse in anticipation of the ruling, and a topless woman rushed the podium yelling "Ghomeshi guilty" as Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan spoke to the press.
This story was originally published at 8 a.m. on March 24, 2016.

A verdict is expected Thursday in one of Canada's most high-profile sexual assault cases, involving former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi is on trial for four counts of sexual assault and one count of "overcome resistance" by choking. Justice William B. Horkins will deliver his verdict on March 24. Ghomeshi faces a second trial for allegedly sexually assaulting another CBC radio employee; that case will be heard separately in June of this year. The allegations against Ghomeshi — made by more than 20 people and ranging from inappropriate texting and groping to violent punching, choking, biting, and forced penetration using his fingers — have rocked Canada. The CBC is Canada's equivalent to NPR, and before these allegations came up, Ghomeshi was one of the company's biggest stars. (Read more on who Ghomeshi is and the background of the case, here.) When formal charges of sexual assault were filed against Ghomeshi in October 2014, many people rallied in support of the alleged survivors. As the trial unfolded, Ghomeshi’s defense attorney, Marie Henein, exposed inconsistencies and omissions in three of the complainants’ testimonies, surely in hopes of diminishing their credibility. But survivors' advocates and Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan argued that analyzing what survivors did after allegedly being sexually assaulted should have no bearing on the court's verdict. Ahead, we recap the biggest moments of the eight-day trial.

It is telling that the defense did not accuse her of dishonesty regarding the objective facts of the assault itself.

Gillian Hnatiw, attorney for alleged survivor Lucy DeCoutere

The Bikini Photo

The first witness testified that Ghomeshi had yanked her hair violently while they were sitting in his car. On another date, she claimed, he had pulled her to the ground and punched her in the head. The witness confirmed what she had told police: that she had had no contact with Ghomeshi after the second assault and would even turn off the radio or television during his programs for fear of being traumatized again. But the defense argued that not only had the witness emailed Ghomeshi twice after the alleged assault, she had also sent him a photo of herself in a bikini. The witness stated that she had sent the photo "as bait," seeking a chance to confront Ghomeshi. "Are you prepared to admit you lied under oath?” Henein asked, before asserting she had no further questions.

"I Love Your Hands"

Lucy DeCoutere, the only complainant whose identity is not under a publication ban, testified that on a date, Ghomeshi had suddenly pushed her against a wall by the throat and slapped her several times. During cross-examination, Henein zeroed in on why DeCoutere hadn’t fully disclosed the details of her interactions with Ghomeshi. Although DeCoutere had told police that after the incident she had had no romantic interest in Ghomeshi, Henein claimed that the actress had sent numerous e-mails and a handwritten letter to him after the alleged assault. In her correspondence — excerpts of which Henein read aloud — DeCoutere wrote, “You kicked my ass last night, and that makes me want to f--k your brains out tonight." Her handwritten letter concluded, "I love your hands." As with the first witness, DeCoutere’s actions after the assault did not contradict her claim to a lack of consent. DeCoutere’s lawyer, Gillian Hnatiw, reinforced this: "It is telling that the defense did not accuse her of dishonesty regarding the objective facts of the assault itself." (See her full comments in the video below.)
Hnatiw’s statement, delivered on the courthouse steps, was a salient reminder that the witnesses have no legal representation in the courtroom. In both Canada and the U.S., the prosecution does not represent the witnesses, nor is it obliged to protect or prepare them. Most sexual assault complainants choose not to retain their own counsel, because ostensibly, they are not on trial. Only two of the three witnesses in Ghomeshi’s trial had their own lawyers.

The Hand Job

The third witness testified that during an event in a Toronto park, she and Ghomeshi were “making out” when “all of a sudden, I felt his hands on my shoulders, and his teeth, and then his hands were around my neck, and he was squeezing." After the alleged assault, she met Ghomeshi on a separate occasion during which she had sexual contact with him (Ghomeshi's attorneys described the incident as “a hand job”); however, she did not tell police about this encounter until February 5, 2016, after the trial was well underway. The witness claimed that she had thought it was irrelevant; but when Henein asked if she agreed that she had been deliberately misleading to police, she answered "yes."
Photo: Todd Korol/Getty Images.


Ghomeshi's lawyer revealed that between October 29, 2014 and September 2015, that the third witness had exchanged over 5,000 communications with Lucy DeCoutere. The two women had called themselves "insta-sisters" and sought support from one other, commiserating over shared trauma, the witness said. But Henein emphasized that the two women were also strategizing on how to bring Ghomeshi down. DeCoutere had advised the witness to meet with a publicist and lawyer before talking to the police. “Time to sink the prick,” the witness had written.

Closing Arguments

The Crown prosecutor argued every person reacts differently to sexual assault. Therefore, the complainants’ behavior after each alleged incident should have no bearing on the final verdict. "Notwithstanding vigorous cross-examination, all were unshaken in allegations that they were assaulted by Ghomeshi," he reminded the court. The defense reiterated that the issue was not whether there is a right or wrong way to behave after experiencing assault, but rather that witnesses had repeatedly lied under oath. Henein concluded that “Ghomeshi is entitled to acquittal on all counts." Judge Horkins said he would reserve judgment for more than a month and reconvene on March 24.

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