Ghomeshi trial begins Monday
He was a broadcasting star with a wide and loyal following before he became engulfed in a scandal that sparked a nationwide conversation on sexual assault and the issues with reporting it.
Now, more than a year since the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi sent shock waves across the country, his highly anticipated trial is set to begin in Toronto on Monday.
Ghomeshi — the former host of CBC radio’s popular culture show “Q” — has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
The judge-alone trial, which is expected to last several weeks, involves three complainants and will be closely watched by many across the country.
“Radio is a very intimate medium and he was going into people’s living rooms five days a week,” said Marsha Barber, a journalism professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University.
“He was very influential and he had a huge listenership. Anybody who listened to him regularly is going to feel that they have a stake in what happened.”
The controversy around Ghomeshi surfaced on Oct. 24, 2014, when the CBC first said he was taking time off from his duties “to deal with some personal issues.” Two days later, the public broadcaster said it had cut ties with the popular host.
In a lengthy Facebook message posted on the same day, Ghomeshi said he’d been fired because of “a campaign of false allegations.” He also said that while he engaged in “rough sex” and “adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission,” he only participated in sexual practices that were “mutually agreed upon, consensual, and exciting for both partners.”
In a separate Facebook post, he vowed to meet the allegations against him “directly.”
Five days after he was fired from the CBC, Toronto police said they were investigating Ghomeshi after two women had come forward with complaints. On the same day, the CBC issued a memo to staff saying it had seen “graphic evidence” that Ghomeshi had caused physical harm to a woman.
One of the women who contacted police was Lucy DeCoutere, an actress on the TV show “Trailer Park Boys,” who was the first to speak on the record about her alleged experiences with Ghomeshi.
DeCoutere, — the only one of the complainants at Ghomeshi’s trial who can be publicly identified — accused the 48-year-old of choking her “to the point she could not breathe” and slapping her “hard three times on the side of her head.”
Jian Ghomeshi is escorted by police out of court past members of the media in Toronto Nov. 26, 2014. His highly anticipated trial on sexual assault charges is set to begin in Toronto on Monday.