'It felt like a rage': Court hears from first witness in Jian Ghomeshi trial
Published Monday, February 1, 2016 5:18AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 1, 2016 8:22PM EST
The first witness in the Jian Ghomeshi trial faced intense cross examination on the stand Monday.
The former host of CBC Radio show "Q" is standing trial at Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse, after pleading not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
Ghomeshi has always denied any wrongdoing and claimed his sexual relations were consensual. He is being tried by judge alone.
After a lengthy discussion on media access to exhibits in the case, the Crown called its first witness, who described an incident that occurred while she was on a date with Ghomeshi.
She said Ghomeshi kissed her, then started to pull her hair, "really, really hard."
She told the courtroom: "It felt like a rage."
She told him she wanted to leave, and he went back to "being a nice guy," the witness said. The pair kissed goodbye and the witness said she agreed to a second date. On the second date, she said the pair went to Ghomeshi's home. She told the court that he pulled her hair again, then started "punching me in the head multiple times."
He then called her a cab and she left, the witness said.
When asked why she didn't report the alleged assault to police right away, the witness told the Crown that she didn't think "anyone would care," and that she was "frozen in fear and sadness."
She decided to come forward in 2015, after hearing then-chief Bill Blair speak at a news conference, saying there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault cases.
The witness was then questioned by Ghomeshi's lawyer, Marie Henein, who scrutinized her recollection of the incident.
Henein said the witness did not tell police that she had "chemistry" or flirted with Ghomeshi during their meetings, and added that she did not need to go out with him a second time.
"You now have a different recollection of what happened," Henein said, gesturing to her police statement.
Henein also attempted to point out other inconsistencies in the witness' testimony and media interviews.
The witness said Ghomeshi had a Volkswagen Beetle at the time, but he did not purchase it until months later, Henein said. She also accused the witness of changing her story about whether she was wearing hair extensions when Ghomeshi allegedly pulled her hair.
Ghomeshi's lawyer also said the witness lied to the CBC, when she didn't tell the broadcaster that she had kissed the radio host on their first meeting.
"I did not lie. I was focusing on the main parts, said the witness.
"When I went to CBC, I was focusing on the main events. The rest came later. If you have to remember something right off the cuff, you don’t always have all the details until you sit with it.”
The witness's testimony was heard by a courtroom packed with media and members of the public, with an overflow room available nearby. Doors opened early on Monday morning so those lined up outside the building could find seats in the packed courtroom.
Ghomeshi arrived in court shortly before 9 a.m. on Monday, accompanied by his lawyers. He was met by a throng of reporters and police officers who followed Ghomeshi up the courthouse steps.
Neither Ghomeshi nor his lawyer spoke as they headed into court, but Ghomeshi clasped the hand of a woman inside the courtroom and said, "Hi mom." He did not look at any members of the media or public when he entered.
The trial began with an hour-long discussion about what exhibits the media would be allowed to include as part of their coverage of the case. Judge William Horkins said he has no problem with allowing access to exhibits as long as they don't violate the publicity ban protecting the two complainants.
"My default position is transparency…The exhibits will be made available," Horkins said.
Ghomeshi has made headlines since October 2014, when the CBC announced he would be taking time off to "deal with some personal issues." Two days later, the broadcaster announced that Ghomeshi had been terminated.
The company later explained that executives had seen "graphic evidence" that he had injured a woman. The radio host has always maintained that he engaged in "rough sex," but did so consensually.
Since that time, Ghomeshi was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. He also faces another sexual assault charge, which will be tried separately in June.