David Frost, the man accused of sexually exploiting two of the players on the Junior A hockey team he once coached in Deseronto, Ont., has been found not guilty on all charges.
It is a sad ending to a sad spectacle. I don’t mean that Frost should have been convicted (though many will argue it). But the mind recoils at the thought of him celebrating: the only two people who demonstrated an ounce of courage or remorse during this proceeding were the women who, starting from the age of 16, engaged in countless acts of group sex involving members of the Quinte Hawks and—according to the women’s testimony—Frost. They agreed to testify on the belief that their names would be protected under a publication ban, which is a promise the Crown should have known it couldn’t keep. For their efforts, they saw their identities exposed and their reputations savaged. The judge actually suggested their testimony smacked of collusion. Now, 10 years and one wrenching trial down the line, it’s safe to assume they wish they’d never met Frost, or his players.
The players, meanwhile, enjoyed complete anonymity as alleged “victims” in this matter (Frost was in a position of trust over his players, not the girls they brought to their motel for sex). Except these two alleged victims didn’t testify for Crown. Instead, they provided their services to the defence, denying and even ridiculing the women’s claim Frost took part in the sex encounters, and generally circling the wagons around a man with whom no sane person would leave his teenager.
Surely this goes down as one of the sorriest moments in the history of the game—and don’t be fooled by any proclamations of innocence you might hear from the Frost camp. That a Superior Court justice found a reasonable doubt in the case against Frost doesn’t change the undisputed fact that Frost was in charge of a team that with his apparent knowledge and consent, if not his participation, turned into a sexual circus. Nor should we forget that one of the players who took part in the sex-capades is doing time in a U.S. prison for trying to arrange Frost’s murder. His name is Mike Danton (né Jefferson), and he evidently has another take on David Frost. We eagerly await it.
Recall too, that Frost is now an outcast in the hockey community, de-certified as an NHL agent, banned from coaching in most legitimate junior leagues for reasons unrelated to this case, including a past assault case involving a player. Scotty Bowman, this man is not.
Finally, today’s decision should not overshadow the disgraceful words of one of the players—a man I’d love to be able to identify—who shrugged off the question of his true feelings for the Deseronto girl he spent years exploiting for sex before finally getting his cup of coffee in the NHL. “It worked … she worked,” he told the court with a supercilious smile. Once he got his break and saw the buffet of sexual opportunities before him, he added, he cut her loose. This is all standard practice in top-flight hockey, as is group sex, he assured the court. In doing so, he laid yet another shiner on the national game.
Weird case, this. Lots of victims. Lots of villains. But according to the law, no crime.
I should note here that the media organizations who fought the ban on publishing the names of the women did so not out of desire to exploit them, but on the priniciple of open courts and free expression. Minors and most victims of sex crimes enjoy a right to anonymity in court. However, offering anonymity to rueful or embarrassed witnesses is a slippery slope the press works diligently to keep the courts off of. Witnesses must be accountable to the courts for their testimony, and the courts must be accountable to the public. We need to know who these people are.
That doesn’t mean the media had to publish the names. Most, including Maclean’s, used either pseudonyms or first names. But some didn’t (hello, Toronto Sun), and some did so only after having second thoughts (hi, Toronto Star). The Internet did the rest. So you could blame the media for the damage this has done to the women involved. Or you could question the Crown for pressing ahead with a wobbly case, knowing the women would pay a disproportionate price for exposing the behaviour of the Quinte Hawks in the late 1990s.
Or you could remember who the ringleader of the whole debacle was. You could consider who took those boys away from their families; who set them up to play in a rogue junior league while whispering NHL dreams into their ears; who shacked them up in motel rooms and apartments without proper supervision; who condoned an atmosphere that included sex parties with the local high-school girls; who drove a wedge between the players and the parents who might have steered them on a straighter path.
In a way, your verdict matters just as much as the court’s.