TORONTO – The judge hearing the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial has ruled against a request from some media outlets for access to a bikini photo of the first complainant to testify against the disgraced broadcaster.
Court heard on Day 2 of the trial that the woman, who can not be identified, sent the photo to the former CBC Radio host 18 months after she alleged he assaulted her on two separate occasions.
The media organizations that sought access to the photo are the Toronto Star, CTV, Global TV and Postmedia.
“This particular exhibit … it may be a key piece of evidence,” media lawyer Iris Fischer told Justice William Horkins, adding the media outlets would blur her face and any identifying details. “The public needs to understand your decision and decide if they agree …. That is public scrutiny.”
The Crown and the woman’s lawyer, meantime, argued vehemently against their release.
“Disclosure would have extremely deleterious impact on the proper administration of justice in Ontario,” said Crown attorney Michael Callaghan.
He said it could result in a “chilling effect” on other potential victims of sexual assault coming forward. The complainant’s lawyer argued the issue at stake was not one of privacy, but the “very real risk” of identifying the woman. He added the witness has expressed real concern about the photo being made available.
The judge agreed.
“It’s my view you don’t need to see it to get the picture,” he said. “There is a serious societal interest in respecting this witness’ privacy interest. It is important for complainants to know the courts will take seriously their role as a gatekeeper.”
Ghomeshi entered the courtroom shortly before the proceedings got underway. Like he did during the first two days of his trial, he first walked over to the seats where his mother and sister are sitting and acknowledged them. Today he gave them a nod and a hint of a tiny smile.
Ghomeshi, the former host of the popular culture show “Q,” has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance by choking.
Earlier this week, the trial heard from the first of three complainants against him.
She testified that he was a charming gentleman with a dark side and attacked her in December 2002 and January 2003.
During the first incident, the woman said Ghomeshi suddenly yanked her hair while they were sharing a “sensuous” kiss. In the second incident in his home, she testified, he once again abruptly pulled her hair while they were kissing and punched her in the head.
Under intense cross-examination by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, the woman, who cannot be identified, acknowledged that she had sent two flirtatious emails to Ghomeshi long after the alleged assaults.
Those emails were brought up in court after the trial heard the woman testify that she didn’t contact Ghomeshi after the alleged assaults, save for perhaps writing him an email in anger which she may or may not have sent.
The woman told Ghomeshi’s defence lawyer that she sent the emails as “bait” to get Ghomeshi to contact her so she could demand an explanation for the alleged assaults. She also said she didn’t remember the emails when she spoke to police and to Crown prosecutors.
If convicted of sexual assault, Ghomeshi faces a maximum sentence of 18 months behind bars. The choking charge against him, however, carries a potential life sentence.