Jian Ghomeshi to plead not guilty
Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi will be pleading not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Marie Henein told reporters that she and her client will not be making any further statements to the media.
"Mr. Ghomeshi will be pleading not guilty. We will address these allegations fully and directly in a courtroom," she said. "It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media; this one will be no different. We will say whatever we have to say in a court of law."
Ghomeshi remained silent as he emerged from the downtown Toronto courthouse after being granted bail Wednesday afternoon.
Flanked by his legal team and surrounded by a sea of reporters, the 47-year-old said nothing as he was ushered into a waiting vehicle and was driven away.
Earlier in the courtroom, Ghomeshi appeared wearing a dark suit, light shirt and no tie.
Bail for Ghomeshi was set at $100,000 and came with the conditions that he must turn over his passport, and must live with his mother. He is due back in court on Jan. 8, 2015.
The former radio host said “yes” and “I do” when the judge asked him if he understood the conditions of his release.
Ghomeshi arrived at the courthouse hours after police announced in a statement that he had been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance - choking.
Toronto police launched an investigation into Ghomeshi at the end of October, after he was fired from the CBC.
The broadcaster said it dismissed Ghomeshi on Oct. 26 after it saw "graphic evidence" that he had allegedly harmed a woman.
Ghomeshi later opened up in a Facebook post, claiming that he had engaged in "rough sex," but that the sex had been consensual.
Nine women have come forward with allegations of physical and sexual assault against Ghomeshi, with many speaking anonymously to the media. At least three women have filed complaints to police. None of the allegations have been proven in court and Ghomeshi has always denied any wrongdoing.
'A major shift in conversation'
Canadian actress Lucy DeCoutere was among the women who publicly came forward with allegations against Ghomeshi.
In a statement released Wednesday, DeCoutere said that since she and others have shared their stories, she's seen a dramatic change in the discussion on physical and sexual assault.
"The past month has seen a major shift in the conversation about violence against women. It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring," she said.
"I hope that victims’ voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed."
The CBC said in a statement Wednesday that none of its ex-employees were linked to the five charges against Ghomeshi.
“We understand that none of the charges involve employees or former employees of CBC,” the broadcaster said.
On Tuesday, Ghomeshi withdrew a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC, which he had launched the day after he was fired. In his statement of claim, he alleged breach of confidence, bad faith and defamation by the broadcaster.
CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said Tuesday that lawyers from both sides had reached an agreement. According to Thompson, Ghomeshi will receive no money and will be responsible for covering CBC's legal costs, which total about $18,000.
'Very serious charges'
Criminal lawyer Boris Bytensky said the charges against Ghomeshi are serious, and carry sentences with jail time.
"These are very serious charges," he told CTV News Channel Wednesday afternoon. "These sentences would almost certainly result in jail time if he was found guilty."
Bytensky, who is not involved in the case, said that he expects Ghomeshi's lawyers will focus their defence on the issue of consent.
"In order to convict somebody of sexual assault there has to be a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that consent was lacking, and in addition, it has to be found that he did not honestly believe there to be consent," he said.
The charges against Ghomeshi could result in a lengthy prison sentence if he is found guilty.
Individuals found guilty of sexual assault face a minimum punishment of 90 days in prison, and a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Ghomeshi could face a life sentence in prison if found guilty on the overcome resistance – choking charge. The offence involves using choking, strangling or suffocation to help one’s self in committing an indictable offence under Section 246 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Police Chief Bill Blair declined to comment on the case Wednesday, but said that any victims of physical or sexual assault who wish to come forward and speak to police can rest assured that they will be treated with "dignity and respect."
Anyone with any information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7474 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.