GATINEAU, Que. – The defence attorney for suspended senator Patrick Brazeau grilled the Crown’s main witness at his client’s criminal trial Thursday as he resumed his determined effort to find gaps in her story.
Brazeau, back in court after a six-week break, is facing charges of assault and sexual assault arising from an alleged incident two years ago in the Quebec city of Gatineau. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Brazeau was kicked out of the Conservative caucus shortly after his arrest.
The female complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, has alleged that Brazeau pushed her down some stairs, hit her head against a wall and a staircase, spat on her and sexually assaulted her.
Earlier in the trial, defence lawyer Gerard Larocque suggested to the court that the woman started the physical confrontation that led to Brazeau’s arrest — accusing her of hitting Brazeau with her hand and a bra.
Brazeau’s lawyer has indicated his client plans to testify in his own defence — an appearance that could come next Tuesday. The judge-alone trial is taking place entirely in French.
On Thursday, the senator’s accuser was back on the stand for a fifth day.
She faced a scatter-shot cross-examination by Larocque, who picked up where he left off when the case was last heard April 2. The extended delay in court dates was caused by scheduling conflicts.
Larocque worked to highlight potential discrepancies to the court between the woman’s statements to police, made shortly after the alleged attack, and her testimony.
In one courtroom exchange, he noted how in a written police statement the woman alleged Brazeau strangled her with his hand by grabbing her throat.
He then drew Quebec Justice Valmont Beaulieu’s attention to gestures she made in a second statement to police — this one on video.
The video, which was played for the courtroom, shows the woman pressing her forearm to her throat to show the interviewing officer how Brazeau allegedly put her in a headlock to choke her. Moments later, in the same video, she gestures that he grabbed her neck with his hand.
She told the court Thursday that his alleged choke was only done with his forearm and that she used the hand gesture at the time to express to the officer that she felt “strangled.”
“At that time, it was very difficult for me to explain in detail what happened to me,” the woman said through an interpreter.
“I was very nervous.”
From there, Larocque continued to try to poke holes in the woman’s story by dissecting her statements. In another example, he noted that while she alleges Brazeau pushed her down some stairs, she also told police interviewer on video that he threw her down the flight.
In April, Larocque presented a photo in court, which was taken by Brazeau himself. It shows the suspended senator’s bare neck with red marks and scratches he allegedly suffered in the February 2013 incident.
The court has also seen several police photos showing bruises and red marks on different parts of the woman’s body.
She has described in detail how she clung to railing spindles as Brazeau allegedly hit her arm to make her let go. The woman has also accused him of trying to shove her down the stairwell with his feet.
She has alleged that when the thin, wooden banister spindles snapped, she tumbled down the flight of stairs.
Brazeau will face other legal hurdles, even after this trial wraps up.
He has a court date in June on charges of fraud and breach of trust in connection with his Senate expense claims.
Brazeau also faces charges related to allegedly being behind the wheel of a car while impaired in October, and for possessing a weapon in breach of his bail conditions. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.
He was also arrested in April 2014 and charged with assault, possession of cocaine, uttering threats and breaching bail conditions. His arrest followed an alleged altercation involving a man and a woman at a home in Gatineau.
Brazeau also pleaded not guilty to those charges.