POLITICS

Inquiry hears Manitoba judge may have known sooner about naked photos online

07/20/2012 11:59 EDT | Updated 09/19/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - An inquiry has been told that a Manitoba judge may have known about her naked photos on the Internet before a sexual harassment claim was ever made, although she was never pressed on the matter.

Lori Douglas, an associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, is being investigated by the Canadian Judicial Council for allegations that she and her husband, Jack King, harassed a man named Alexander Chapman in 2003.

At the time, Douglas and King were lawyers at the same firm, and King was Chapman's divorce lawyer.

King and Douglas have said all along that King uploaded sexually explicit photos of his wife to a website and asked Chapman to have sex with her, but did so without Douglas's knowledge.

On Friday, another partner in the firm, Michael Sinclair, testified that King told him Douglas might have known that some of the photos were online. But Sinclair said King seemed unclear, so he believed Douglas didn't know anything about her husband's actions.

"Jack was so uncertain about his statement that I didn't give it any credence," Sinclair told the inquiry.

Sinclair also said Douglas appeared shocked when he discussed the matter with her, so the law firm stood by her, didn't investigate her and never suggested she quit.

"She didn't cause those photos to be published to the Internet. I didn't think — and don't think now — that we should blame the victim."

Chapman's lawyer, Rocco Galati, seized upon Sinclair's statement, saying the law firm undertook only a "very anemic" review and blindly accepted the idea that Douglas was not part of the sexual harassment of Chapman.

"You took her word that she was the victim," Galati said.

"You're assuming she didn't know what (King) had done."

The five-member inquiry panel also seemed concerned about the firm's lack of an investigation into Douglas. George Macintosh, the lawyer who asks questions on the panel's behalf, asked Sinclair why no one questioned Douglas about whether she was involved in the harassment of Chapman.

"Would you accept the proposition that it was a modest investigation?" Macintosh asked. "Did you put to her King's statement that she may have known about one of the (sets of Internet photos)?"

"No, I did not," Sinclair replied.

Chapman, who is black, alleges he was approached by King to have sex with Douglas, and was directed to Dark Cavern, a website dedicated to sex between black men and white women. On that website were two dozen photos of Douglas, some of which showed her in bondage gear or performing sex acts. King also emailed some photos to Chapman.

Soon after Chapman received the raunchy photos from King, he called up lawyer Ian Histed to discuss a lawsuit and showed Histed the photos of Douglas

"He said to me, 'I've got something here that is going to make us both rich,'" Histed told the inquiry.

"At first, he was like, 'Yeah, we're going to make a million dollars off this,' but ... he also thought these people could retaliate against him'."

Within weeks, Chapman settled for a $25,000 payment from King and, in exchange, agreed to return all the photos and never discuss the matter publicly. Chapman broke that deal and went public in 2010, saying he was still suffering. King admitted last year to harassing Chapman and pleaded guilty to professional misconduct.

King was ordered to pay $14,000 in costs after his disciplinary hearing before the Law Society of Manitoba. However, he retains his licence to practise law.

Douglas was appointed a judge in 2005 and the inquiry is to examine next week whether she disclosed the photo matter to the committee that screened her application. The inquiry panel has the power to recommend to the federal justice minister that Douglas be removed from her job.

Douglas and King, who have one child together, remain married. Sinclair told the inquiry he suggested to Douglas that she leave King when the matter came to light in 2003, but she refused.

"She said she couldn't do that. She was concerned about Jack."

King has said he was going through a mental breakdown and was suffering from depression when the photos were taken and uploaded. He told his disciplinary hearing last year that Douglas indulged him in his strange sexual tastes.