BRITISH COLUMBIA

John Furlong Loses Temper Under Cross-Examination In Defamation Trial

06/23/2015 03:39 EDT | Updated 06/23/2016 05:59 EDT
Jonathan Hayward/CP
VANCOUVER - Former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong raised his voice and angrily thumped his fist during testimony as he defended himself at a B.C. Supreme Court defamation trial on Tuesday.

During fiery cross-examination, Furlong accused lawyer Bryan Baynham — who is representing freelance journalist Laura Robinson — of sullying his deceased wife's reputation.

Baynham suggested Furlong lied when he testified that Deborah Furlong filled up their truck with Georgia Straight newspapers on the morning in September 2012 that Robinson's article came out, with allegations about his past in northern British Columbia.

"How dare you sully her reputation and her life like that? I gave you exactly what she did," Furlong shot back. "She was totally distraught."

Robinson is suing Furlong for comments he made after the publication of her article, which included sworn affidavits from eight former students alleging he physically and verbally abused them at a Roman Catholic school about 45 years ago.

Furlong has testified that the allegations are "absolutely not true."

At a news conference the day the article was published, Furlong accused Robinson of a "shocking lack of diligence" and "inaccurate reporting."

Baynham read emails in court that revealed Furlong retained a lawyer, Marvin Storrow, as early as April 2012 to handle Robinson's requests. Through Storrow, he declined an interview and issued a blanket denial instead of answering specific questions.

Furlong testified he sent Robinson an emailed statement denying the allegations, and it was her responsibility to ensure that accusers were telling the truth before publishing.

He also denied Robinson's claim that he "screamed" at her in an April 2011 meeting when she tried to ask questions about his time in Burns Lake, B.C. He said he ended the interview but did not raise his voice.

Baynham also read emails between Furlong and his public relations staff just before the September 2012 news conference. Renee Smith-Valade, former Vancouver Olympics communications director, wrote in an email that she had added a few lines to Furlong's statement that "throw (Robinson's) credibility into question."

A major issue in the trial has been whether Robinson's reporting prompted sexual abuse allegations against Furlong.

Her Georgia Straight article did not include any mention of sex abuse. But Furlong's lawyers have pointed to a brief article written by Robinson and published the same day in Anishinabek News which mentioned that one accuser had taken a sex abuse complaint to the RCMP.

Furlong told the trial that he recalls hearing the claim before the September 2012 news conference and said the accusations started with Robinson.

"When you say something horrible about someone, it is everywhere fast," he said. "It was all over the Internet."

He testified that he did what "any reasonable person" would have done to protect his name and family when he spoke out against Robinson.

He said the stress caused by the article led him and his wife Deborah to move to Ireland, where she was killed in a car crash in 2013.

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

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