Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted on all five charges against him, a judge ruled Thursday.
Justice William Horkins delivered his ruling in a provincial courtroom in Toronto’s Old City Hall. Reading his decision to the court, the judge said the lack of a “smoking gun” or physical evidence presented a difficult bar for the Crown.
After the not guilty verdict was read to the court, Ghomeshi embraced his lawyer and turned around and hugged his mother who sat behind.
“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.
Jian Ghomeshi leaves a Toronto courthouse on March 24, 2016 with his lawyer Marie Henein. (Photo:Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP)
He noted “serious deficiencies” in evidence presented to him during trial, noting reasonable doubt exists in the case.
“I am forced to conclude that it is impossible for the Court to have sufficient faith in the reliability or sincerity of these complainants.”
At the beginning of the reading of his decision, Horkins referenced the publicity that trailed the former “Q” host after he was fired from the CBC in 2014 as the “Ghomeshi scandal.”
It took Horkins over a hour to read out his 26-page ruling, where he went through each witness’ case laid against Ghomeshi.
In one portion, he outlined the possibility of collusion between two witnesses to see Ghomeshi “fucking decimated.” A reaction that may have been fueled by the “animus” of anger reflective of “legitimate feelings of victims of abuse,” he noted.
“I have a firm understanding that the reasonableness of reactive human behaviour in the dynamics of a relationship can be variable and unpredictable,” said Horkins.
He noted some details didn’t line up to what witness’ told police and what they said in court, adding pieces of evidence were “tainted by outright deception.”
In cases with criminal charges, Horkins stressed presumption of innocence for the accused isn’t something that should be immediately waived.
“However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this — 24 — trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.”
Protesters stand outside court in Toronto on March 24, 2016 awaiting a verdict on the sexual assault trial of former CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi. (Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Testing reliability of alleged victims of sexual assault
Trigger warning: This article contains information about violence which may be triggering to survivors.
During the trial, Ghomeshi’s high-profile defence lawyer Marie Henein uncovered alleged inconsistencies in the testimonies of three complainants who came forward to police.
She brought forward surprise documents, including emails sent from the witnesses, before the judge.
The defence strategy focused on memory, credibility and reliability of the witnesses, and the actions of the complainants after the alleged sexual assaults took place between 2002 and 2003.
“It suggests a degree of carelessness with the truth that diminishes the general reliability of the witness”
— Justice William Horkins
Horkins told the courtroom one witness’ narrative — actress Lucy DeCourtere — shifted during trial, saying she told the media one story and the court another.
He referenced an email she sent Ghomeshi on July 5, 2003, a day after he allegedly choked her:
Getting to know you is literally changing my mind, in a good way. You challenge me and point to stuff that has not been pulled out in a very long time. I can tell you about that sometime and everything about our friendship so far will make sense. You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to fuck your brains out, tonight.
After the email was presented in court, the “Trailer Park Boys” actress told the Toronto Star it doesn’t derail the fact she was choked and slapped “without consent.”
But with “not a trace of animosity, regret, or offence taken,” the judge disagreed.
“It suggests a degree of carelessness with the truth that diminishes the general reliability of the witness,” Horkins wrote in his ruling.
Calling details of the alleged incidents of “historical complaints,” the judge acknowledged each complainant expressed “very valid” reasons for not coming forward to police until 2014.
A copy of a photograph of Lucy DeCoutere released by the court during the trial of Jian Ghomeshi on Feb. 5, 2016. (Photo: Handout)
The names of the two other alleged victims are under publication ban.
CBC: Firing Ghomeshi was right decision
Ghomeshi faced five charges at the trial’s start: four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. He opted to be tried by a judge, not by jury.
He pleaded not guilty to all five charges against him in October.
Workers scrape a wall which had a publicity photo of former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi in the broadcasting corporation's Toronto offices on October 27, 2014. (Photo: Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
A spokesperson representing Ghomeshi’s former employer, the CBC, commented that the decision Thursday is unrelated to the public broadcaster’s decision to fire him in 2014.
“Based on the evidence that came to our attention, Mr. Ghomeshi’s actions were not in line with the values of the public broadcaster nor our employee code of conduct,” said Chuck Thompson in a written statement.
“We stand by our decision.”
‘No right way to be a victim of sexual assault’
In an October 2014 internal memo to staff, the CBC explained the dismissal of one of its biggest celebrities by saying managers had seen “graphic evidence” the former radio host had “caused physical injury to a woman.”
After he was fired, Ghomeshi posted a long and personal post to Facebook in his defence about his dismissal and “a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer.”
That Facebook post, which was eventually deleted after being widely shared, which closed the door on reasonable doubt and opened the opportunity for the Toronto Star to publish its original bombshell story.
“And you wonder why women do not come forward after abuse.”
— Lisa MacLeod, Ontario MPP
Ghomeshi’s sudden and dramatic fall triggered a national conversation about how the public and justice system treat survivors of sexual assault.
Across the country, news of his acquittal prompted supporters and victims advocates to band behind the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors — encouraging women to not be discouraged by the verdict and to continue reporting sexual assault allegations to police.
Tragically, our systems continue to put survivors of sexual assault on trial while their abusers and rapists go free. #IBelieveSurvivors
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) March 24, 2016
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) March 24, 2016
And you wonder why women do not come forward after abuse. #IBelieveSurvivors
— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) March 24, 2016
There is no right way to be a victim of sexual assault.
There is no right way to be a victim of sexual assault.#IBelieveSurvivors
— Rakhee Sapra (@RakheeSapra) March 24, 2016
Horkins’ ruling doesn’t mark the end for Ghomeshi's interaction with the criminal justice system.
The former CBC Radio host faces a sexual assault charge filed by another complainant stemming from an incident that allegedly happened in the workplace.
A separate trial will hear that case in June.
Also on HuffPost:
A former York University student, Kerry Eady, told the Toronto Star she was at an informal meeting of about 25 students in the fall of 1988. Residence advisers told the group that a couple of female students had said Ghomeshi hit them. One said she was choked in a stairwell, Eady recalled. “There was nothing official, because these girls were talking to [the advisers] confidentially, to get advice on what to do. They told them to report it but none of them wanted to,” Eady told The Star. Source: Toronto Star
Jim Hounslow attended served as communications coordinator for York's student federation while Ghomeshi was president. Hounslow told the Star that he and Ghomeshi were waiting for an elevator after a student meeting during the 1990-91 school year when Ghomeshi suddenly reached over and grabbed his genitals through his jeans. "I was completely shocked and I reacted,” Hounslow told The Star. He grabbed Ghomeshi's arm, pushed him against the elevator doors and told him to never do that again. Source: Toronto Star
Moxy Fruvous fan Sally Block was a 16-year-old living in upstate New York in 1999, and she was surprised when Ghomeshi responded to her email. That initiated a multi-year correspondence that grew to include phone calls. She also met up with Ghomeshi after concerts where Block says he sometimes got “handsy.” After she stopped hearing from Ghomeshi in 2002, Block broke into his email by guessing his password. Ghomeshi threatened to press charges, but backed down after Block's father learned of his history of correspondence with his then-underage daughter. Source: The Globe and Mail
Author and lawyer Reva Seth says that she went on a few casual dates with Ghomeshi in 2002. In a blog for HuffPost, she wrote that she was at his home one evening when suddenly "he became a different person." Ghomeshi put his hands around her throat and "violently digitally penetrat[ed]" her. Source: Huffington Post Canada
An anonymous woman says she met Ghomeshi after a taping of his CBC show "Play" in 2002. She says he yanked her hair hard at one point in the evening and asked her if she liked it "rough." She met him again two weeks later, and went back to his home. She says that he grabbed her hair without her consent and gave her three sharp punches to the head. “I was crying. Just crying. He stood there looking at me and said, 'You should leave,' ” she told the Star. The same woman was also interviewed by CBC's "As It Happens." Source: "As It Happens" and Toronto Star
The former "Trailer Park Boys" actress says that Ghomeshi, without warning or consent, choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head. She described the same events again in interviews with the CBC. Source: Toronto Star
A woman sent Ghomeshi a letter asking him to manage her music career, and he called her back. When they met in person, she says Ghomeshi groped her, tried to kiss her and “relentlessly tried to put his hands on and near my inner thighs, crotch and rear, both inside and out of my pants,” the Star reported. Source: Toronto Star
An anonymous woman alleges that Ghomeshi attacked her after they went for a walk in a Toronto park following an event. She had been on a few dates with him before, but they had never been intimate. She told The Star he choked, smothered, bit and groped her on a park bench. Source: Toronto Star
A 22-year-old woman met Ghomeshi at a Christmas party. The woman, who worked at the CBC, went out for a drink with him and on the way back to his car, he started choking her with no warning. “I said, ‘What the f---.’ I told him I have three brothers,” she told the Star. She says Ghomeshi replied "your loss." She says he drove away and then called her to say he was under a lot of stress and driving fast — “if I crash it will be your fault.” Source: Toronto Star
The former "Q" producer's allegations were initially anonymous, but Borel identified herself in a column about Ghomeshi's workplace harassment for The Guardian on Dec. 2. She alleges that Ghomeshi told her after a story meeting in 2007 "I want to hate f--- you." After that, he gave her uninvited back massages at her desk and more harassment followed over the next three years, until she left the CBC. "A year into my time on the job, he grabbed my rear end and claimed he couldn't control himself because of my skirt," she wrote for the Guardian. "He once grabbed my waist from behind – in front of our fellow colleague, at the office – and proceeded to repeatedly thrust his crotch into my backside. "There was emotional abuse, too: gaslighting and psychological games that undermined my intelligence, security and sense of self. Sometimes that hit harder than the physical trespassing." Source: The Guardian
A woman told The Toronto Star that Ghomeshi did ask her if she "was into choking," telling her "it would heighten the experience of sex." The woman says she told Ghomeshi she wasn't into choking. She also recalls how he hit her and called her "a slut." Source: Toronto Star
A 23-year-old woman applied for a position as Ghomeshi's assistant, but withdrew her application after she met with him and he was critical of her appearance and mispronouncing his name. "I genuinely felt so bad about it at the time. I look back on this now as the tactic of a manipulator with a mandate,” she told the Star. Ghomeshi continued to contact her and they began dating. She says he hit her on her head and face with an open hand. "I pushed him back once and he grabbed my wrists and said he did not like that,” she told the Star. Source: Toronto Star
A female fan met Ghomeshi at a book signing in a small city in Eastern Canada in 2012. They later corresponded by text, and many of the messages were violent, she said. They eventually met in person, and he allegedly shoved her against a wall, choked, and hit her on the head. Source: Toronto Star
The Toronto Star reported an anonymous woman in her mid-20s says she met Ghomeshi at a book signing in a small city in Eastern Canada. He invited her to visit him in Toronto, where she says he threw her against the wall. She said sex with the host included belts, choking and hitting that left her bruised. Ghomeshi allegedly found the bruises "sexy." Source: Toronto Star
A Western University graduate told the Star about her experience with Ghomeshi on condition of anonymity. She said that as a student, Ghomeshi touched her inappropriately after a taping of "Q." She went to the taping in Dec. 2012 in the hopes of landing a job on the show. She alleges that after the show, Ghomeshi approached her from behind and pressed his body against her. He later asked her out for a "non-work related drink" but she said she didn't want to date and was only interested in discussing a job. He responded that he didn't want to be a "conduit to a job." Source: Toronto Star
A CBC producer in her mid-20s went out for drinks with Ghomeshi following a book signing in Montreal. She told him her dream job was to work for "Q." He rubbed her legs in a pub, telling her that "touching helps" his anxiety. She said she went to Ghomeshi's hotel room, where he threw her against a wall and fondled her. She said she performed oral sex on him "just to get out of there." Source: Toronto Star
A woman, who was a student at the time, said she had a five-month relationship with Ghomeshi. She says he tried to smother her by covering her nose and mouth with his hands. She told the Toronto Star she used her cellphone to call a friend from Ghomeshi's bathroom, who told her to "get out of there." She left and broke off the relationship with him. Source: Toronto Star
A Toronto woman shared a hotel elevator with Ghomeshi while he was in London. She told Ghomeshi her name, and he tracked her email down and contacted her for a drink. “After a few drinks we went back to his room where he proceeded to literally throw me on his bed, no buildup, no conversation, and started biting, pulling my hair and biting me all over,” she told the Star. Source: Toronto Star
Although Carla Ciccone's blog for XOjane never identifies the man in the story is Ghomeshi, it is widely assumed to be — Ghomeshi himself has not denied going on a date with Ciccone. The blog details a date with a Canadian media personality, which quickly turned sour when he touched her without consent — on multiple occasions. After the Ghomeshi story broke in Oct. 2014, Ciccone tweeted this about the controversy. Source: XOjane
An anonymous woman told The Star that she had gone out on a few dates with Ghomeshi in 2013 but they never had sex. Weeks later, Ghomeshi invited her over to his new house in Toronto, telling her he "didn’t buy this big house to throw parties, but to raise a family." He then kissed her, and then suddenly pulled her hair and went on to hit her, bit her and called her a degrading term. Source: Toronto Star
A Twitter account with the handle @BigEarsTeddy began posting allegations of sexual violence against Ghomeshi in April 2014. The identity of the Twitter user is not known. Source: Twitter
Ghomeshi hired Marie Heinen, a criminal lawyer who previously defended former attorney general Michael Bryant, reports The Toronto Star. In a Toronto Life profile, Heinen says she is "not conflicted about being a strong feminist and what I do in court."
The Toronto Star reports that a woman who has never spoken to the media did file a police complaint. Her allegations partly led to the five abuse-related charges laid against Ghomeshi on Nov. 26. Source: Toronto Star
A woman who bumped into Ghomeshi at the CBC building in Toronto told the Star that she gave him her phone number. They went on a few dates and he sexually assaulted her at his home on several occasions. Source: Toronto Star
Two of the seven counts of sexual assault against Jian Ghomeshi were dropped due to "no reasonable prospect of conviction."
Ghomeshi pleaded "not guilty" to five charges, included four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. The court date is set for Feb. 1, 2016.
Feb. 1, 2016: Ghomeshi's judge-alone trial gets underway in Toronto. Justice William Horkins says he'll deliver the verdict on March 24.
On March 24, 2016, Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on all five charges against him, a judge ruled. Justice William Horkins delivered his ruling in a provincial courtroom in Toronto’s Old City Hall. Reading his decision to the court, the judge said the lack of a “smoking gun” or physical evidence presented a difficult bar for the Crown.