Ghomeshi day 2: An email bombshell, and sidestepping consent

Tuesday’s dramatic reveal at the Jian Ghomeshi trial electrified the courtroom and left big questions in its wake

Jian Ghomeshi in Toronto, February 1, 2016  (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Jian Ghomeshi in Toronto, February 1, 2016 (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The damning emails were unveiled slowly on a big screen in court today, line by line, like a striptease in reverse. “Hello Play>Boy,” the first one unfurled, “Good to see you again! Your show is still great. When you take a break from ploughing snow naked take a look at [a link to a music video in which the witness performed]” It ended with a friendly entreaty to stay in touch via email or at a cell number provided. The missive, to Ghomeshi  dated Jan. 16, 2004 at 3:03 a.m., delivered a bombshell on day two of R. v. Ghomeshi, one inflicting a craterous hole in the credibility of the first witness.

Yesterday and today, the woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified after Jian Ghomeshi alleged sexually assaulted her twice in 2002 and 2003, she would turn the  TV or radio off if he was on. Ghomeshi  yanked her head back by her hair when they were kissing in his car, she testified; shortly after, at his house, he punched her head repeatedly with such force she fell to the floor. Asked yesterday by Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan if she’d had any contact with Ghomeshi after the second incident, she said, “No,” adding that she’d written an “angry” email after hearing him on Q, the CBC radio show he hosted, but couldn’t remember sending it. She said couldn’t watch him on TV or listen to him on radio; it was “retraumatizing.”

Defence lawyer Marie Henein detonated that testimony today, setting the stage with a video clip from the witness’s report to police in 2014: “I’ve never listened to Q ever…even now with the new guy,” she said. She showed a photo of the witness from a taping of >play, the CBC Newsworld show Ghomeshi hosted taken the after the alleged assault in the car. The witness looks “happy,” Henein told the court, implying she was in no way traumatized. The lawyer noted that “six times, under oath,” the witness said she “had no further dealings” with Ghomeshi, pointing out that testimony she composed that “angry” email “during Q” indicated that she did in fact listen to the show. A transcript from an interview with CBC radio that did not mention kissing Ghomeshi contradicting courtroom testimony was cited by Henein as proof the witness’s ” truth keeps changing.”

Then, the final strafing. Henein walked the court through the email, line by line beginning with “Good to see you again!” “So you saw him again?” she asked the witness. “No,” the witness said, asking to explain. Henein expressed incredulity: You’re now inviting the man who traumatized you to get in touch with you?” she asked. “You haven’t let me explain,” the witness interjected. Henein continued  questioning: “Are you prepared to admit you lied under oath?” “No,” the witness said,  “I did not want to see him.” The flirtatious email was  “bait,” she said: “It was bait to call me so I could get an explanation as to why he would violently punch me in the head. I had no interest in him,”  she said: “I was in a committed relationship.”  Henein asked if Ghomeshi responded . “No,” the witness answered.

A second email sent six months later, dated June 22, 2004, at 1:46 a.m.  popped up on the screen. “I’ve been watching your show Screw the Vote [a 2004 TV documentary] and I thought I’d drop you a line to say hello. Hope all is well,” it said, before asking Ghomeshi to say hello to a mutual friend. The witness again defended her earlier testimony: “That doesn’t mean I was watching him,” she said. That email included an attachment:  a photo submitted as evidence but not shown to the court; Henein described it as the witness in a bikini, a “string bikini,” she specified. Metadata showed the image was Photoshopped hours earlier, she noted. “It’s implausible…a picture in a string bikini to the man who traumatized you,” she said, noting the emails were never disclosed to the police, the Crown, the judge. “Are you prepared to admit you lied under oath?” she asked the witness before saying she had no further questions. The Crown, blindsided by the turn of events, did not redirect testimony. The witness, holding her water bottle, left the courtroom, casting a look back at Ghomeshi as she walked through the door. His face betrayed no emotion.

Tuesday’s dramatic reveal electrified the courtroom and left questions in its wake. None of the proceedings actually refuted the witness’s allegations that sexual assault took place. Would the outcome have been different if the witness had her own Marie Henein in her corner to make sense of the messy, confusing and inconsistent realities of allegations sexual assault between acquaintances? Could a relentless advocate, educated in the effect of trauma on memory and behaviour, explain to the court how victims of sexual assault do not always cut ties nor change their opinion of the attacker; that it’s possible to be sexually violated then to try to reconcile events with a world-view in which the person who hurt them was a “perfect gentleman” and a “nice guy”?  Could such a person have directed the conversation to consent pertaining to the criminal charges, not relentless preoccupation with destroying the witness based on inconsistencies in retelling of events before or after?

We’ll never know. Less than an hour after her testimony ended, the witness released a statement read outside the courtroom by her lawyer, Jacob Jesin. In it, she said going to court and facing Ghomeshi had been “extraordinarily difficult” but worth it: “I want to encourage other victims of abuse to come forward, and not be afraid,” she said. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that I have had a chance to tell my story openly.” Of all the alleged fabrications in this trial, this last line felt the most false.


Ghomeshi day 2: An email bombshell, and sidestepping consent

  1. It must be quite disheartening to go on a limb to support the “victim” only to have it blow up in your face. What to do, what to do … Why not blame the system?? Yeah, that’s the next best thing. It’s got to be better than blaming the person who brought this on herself. Right??
    The solution to the incontrovertible reasonable doubt that was raised yesterday is simply a witness who …. ready for this? A witness who tells the truth. To the police. To the media. On the witness stand.
    If you are going to make such an allegation after all this time. Take a little effort and scan through your past emails. Prepare yourself. Dare I say, get a clue. Then tell your story. Tell the police that you tried to bait him into contacting you (if that’s actually the truth). Tell the crown attorney. Tell the court.
    Don’t try to play games, and hope that no one else will know what you did. It is, to borrow a phrase, implausible.
    If this is the jilted ex-lover who was trying to ruin Jians life, she has certainly succeeded. His star has fallen and will never rise again as it once did. Karma’s a b@tch and Jian got his well deserved comeuppance.
    But don’t try to blame the system for this womans complete disregard for anything remotely resembling the truth.

    • According to the witness, she only contacted police after the Facebook message from Gian after his firing and the call for “other victims” from the police chief. I don’t find the emails that surprising. If you look at the times when there sent (middle of the night)….I am very familiar with drunkin’ emailing; drunkin’ texting; drunkin; calling. Many people who suffer from depression and other mental trauma self-medicate with alcohol and druga and from what I understand, there is often a lot of guilt and shame associated with being a victim of this nature. She truly might not even recall the emails. They make her seem pathetic but that just goes to show what this kind of treatment at the hands of someone you trust does to you. His defense lawyer has to know that battered women go back home for more of the same many, many times before they leave. It doesn’t change the fact that the man is batterer. What Gian has present himself as a consensul batterer. The judge needs to ask himself if these women where consensual in receiving the beatings?

      • Except that there’s no evidence the witness was drunk when she wrote the emails. She first tried to say she didn’t remember sending them, then changed her story to say she wanted to ‘bait’ him. Also, while studies show that battered women often “go back home” as you say, this is an entirely different situation. The complainant had three dates with him. She was not financially or emotionally dependent on him as some battered women might be. She said numerous times that she didn’t want any further contact with him, which was a lie. She perjured herself on the stand. Also, what makes you think his defence will be consent? How about “it didn’t happen?”

      • My exposure to the accuser is only through the reporting that is coming out. But based on that information I disagree that she is evidence of what “this type of treatment” does to you. She had every opportunity to walk away from him. She continued the relationship and went in with her eyes open. Particularly in the second instance.
        If you re-read my second last paragraph you’ll see that I am not expressing sympathy for the accused. My response was directed at the writer of the column and her conclusions drawn from the treatment of the witness.

  2. This is just a ‘he said/she said’ based on memory of events a decade ago. I can’t remember sending emails a couple months ago, let alone 12 years.

    Jian’s reputation and career have been ruined over this. I certainly hope there’s better evidence.

    • His career and reputation were ruined by his desire to hurt women during sex. His fb post was proof enough for most people.
      The outcome of the trial has no bearing on that. The trial is simply about consent as his actions, while detestable to me, are not illegal (assuming consent)

    • Obviously some of the women feel Gian “misread” their consenting to him beating them up. He said in his Facebook post that he enjoys beating women during sex and it is always consensual. Maybe he is mistaken. Maybe he missed a que or two. Also, information flooded in from people worked with him at the CBC about his poor treatment of them and the way it was swept under the carpet. It does not really sound like anyone “ruined his reputation and career” but him.

  3. As usual, Anne continues to grind the exact same ax as she does in all of her articles. For those of you who would like to follow this case but through the eyes of someone with integrity, Chritis Blatchford does an excellent job.

  4. Serious question for someone knowledgeable about law:

    Hair pulling , and head punching. What raises this to sexual assault and not simply assault? Because of the kissing?

    • The reason he’s charged with sexual assault is that the complainant alleges the hair pulling and punching took place while they were kissing. The idea is that the context of the assault ‘violates the sexual integrity’ of the victim. Interestingly, the first complainant was inconsistent between her media interviews and her testimony as to whether they were kissing or not when the assault took place.

      • Ok, thanks. Yeah, I was a bit confused about the kissing parts. I was generally (not sure tho) under the impression that the kissing revelation in the car only came out in defense cross. Which made me wonder why that was a sexual assault charge – but obviously the crown must have established this before laying the charge.

  5. Several brave survivors chose to not only unburden themselves of an awful weight through public disclosure, but, as well, to engage the judicial system. As a further revelation, and one that could, hopefully, spur positive reform, beginning this week we, as a nation, are able to witness how an antiquated legal system may serve the predator better than it does the prey in cases of sexual assault. (And, too, we’re watching how a media and celeb culture that once helped make a star of Jian Ghomeshi is now geared to mythologize his defence lawyer Marie Henein.)

    On November 9, 2014 – two weeks after Ghomeshi exited the CBC and its flagship arts show – a different radio program, “The Sunday Edition” with host Michael Enright, brought together a panel of legal experts to explore various legal issues that today are in full view. “Fixing a broken system: Sexual assault and the law” remains essential listening: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/remembering-alistair-macleod-sexual-assault-and-the-law-in-praise-of-the-theremin-ww1-what-for-and-vimyism-1.2905282/fixing-a-broken-system-sexual-assault-and-the-law-1.2905285

  6. The media’s coverage of this has been a disappointment from day one. Just reading the apologists for the witness is frustrating.(Who releases a statement to the media following their court testimony? What was that about?) I get a lot of lessons from this, but mostly that this is the justice system working, and it’s a relief after the medieval lynch mob mentality that’s dominated this story.

    One question I have is why didn’t the prosecutors know? Isn’t disclosure to each side mandatory? As in Ghomeshi’s lawyer had to notify the prosecutors about the emails beforehand? Unfortunately, journalists I’ve read seem too preoccupied with trying to reconcile the witness’s testimony with their position that they’ve taken that Ghomeshi is guilty, to enlighten me on that point.

    • The defence has the right to silence throughout the entire trial process. There is no obligation on the defence to disclose anything to the Crown. It is one of the few advantages the defence has.

      • Thanks. But the prosecutor has to disclose? It sticks in my mind that some wrongful convictions turned on not being able to see evidence prosecutors had, when they were entitled to.

        • That’s true, but a lot of those cases happened before the Supreme Court made it an obligation for the prosecution to disclose all relevant information. It still happens from time to time though!

  7. Why is Anne Kingston assuming the defence will be consent?

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