Jian Ghomeshi 'rightly acquitted,' legal team says
Published Friday, March 25, 2016 9:25AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 25, 2016 12:06PM EDT
Jian Ghomeshi’s lawyers say the former radio host is moving on and looking forward to spending time with family after being “rightly acquitted” of several sexual assault charges.
“This has been a very long, exhausting and devastating 16 months for Mr. Ghomeshi. He will take time with his family and close friends to reflect and move forward from what can only be described as a profoundly difficult period in his life,” read the statement from Henein Hutchison LLP.
The statement added that the case was decided based on what was presented in court.
“Notwithstanding the unprecedented scrutiny and pressure, the case was determined on the evidence heard in a court of law. In our system of justice, that is what must happen in every case regardless of who is accused or what crime is alleged. That is precisely what occurred in this case.”
Ghomeshi, 48, showed little emotion as the verdict was read and did not comment to reporters as he left the courthouse. But his sister, Jila, read a statement saying the trial had been painful for the family.
"Our hardest burden has been our feeling of helplessness as we have watched him endure a punishment that was not only prior to a verdict but prior to any semblance of due process for well over a year," she said.
Both statements were delivered after Ontario Court Justice Williams Horkins acquitted Ghomeshi of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
Horkins said in his ruling that conviction required "proof beyond reasonable doubt," which had been lacking in this case. He cited issues of credibility with the accusers, saying their “suppression” of evidence and “deceptions” under oath made it difficult to trust their testimony.
"The harsh reality is that once a witness is shown to be deceptive and inconsistent, the court cannot have faith in complainants," he said.
But he added that the acquittal was not the same as saying the events never happened.
“My conclusion that the evidence in this case raises a reasonable doubt is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened,“ he said.
Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan said his team will review the judgment over the weekend and consider an appeal within the next 30 days.
Many have criticized the outcome, saying it unfairly put the accusers’ conduct on trial instead of Ghomeshi’s.
Tracey Ramsey, an NDP MP for Essex in Ontario, told CTV’s Power Play that she believes the justice system is broken and that sexual assault victims may need a “special court.”
“The justice system does not stand up for survivors of sexual assault and the system needs to be overhauled,” said Ramsey.
“We need to have a system where (victims) are heard and they aren’t judged on the way they responded to their particular assault.”
One of Ghomeshi’s accusers, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told Newstalk 1010 on Thursday before the verdict that she does not regret going ahead with criminal charges, “because I know now that there is a big flaw, a big hole, this needs to change.”
“This can’t go on like this,” she said. “Trying sexual assault cases like this is just not right.”
Toronto-based criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger told CTV News Channel he’s not sure the Crown did anything wrong in its prosecution.
He said, typically, if a witness or an accuser has been forthright in all their statements to police, then the prosecution should be prepared for what the defence raises in cross-examination.
“But in this case, it’s very clear that the Crown could not have anticipated vast amounts of after-the-fact conduct by the complainants that was simply not disclosed to police. So I’m not sure what Mr. Callaghan could have done more to prepare these witnesses,” he said.
Actress Lucy DeCoutere, the only complainant who chose to be named in the case, spoke Thursday night at a rally outside the courthouse along with another complainant who remained hooded to protect her privacy. DeCoutere expressed gratitude for the support she and the other two accused received during what they called a “difficult” time
"It's been a rough year or so, and for me, it's been a very small conversation between me and a couple of people,” she said. “However, seeing all of you here right now, understanding that -- it's fair to say some of you had direct experience with violence? Is that fair to say? Or had friends who have disclosed stuff to you? I just want to thank you so much for coming," she said.
"When this story first broke ... there was a wave of correspondence that came from various folks who were saying they believed me, but it was believing in survivors. It was entirely heart cracking and overwhelming, and so intensely humbling and through this whole thing, anything I've said to anyone in any of this, I've really had all of you in mind."
Ghomeshi still faces another sexual assault trial in June.
Meanwhile, Chuck Thompson, the head of public affairs at CBC, said the public broadcaster's decision to end Ghomeshi's employment in 2014 is unrelated to the criminal charges he faced.
"Based on the evidence that came to our attention, his actions were not in line with the values of the public broadcaster, nor with our employee code of contact," Thompson said in a statement to CTV News.