Toronto police have launched an investigation into alleged sexual violence by Jian Ghomeshi after being contacted by two women who say they were victimized by the former CBC star.
One of the women is Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere, who alleged in an interview with the Toronto Star that in 2003, Ghomeshi choked her to the point she could not breathe and then slapped her hard three times on the side of her head without her consent.
The other woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, first talked to a Star reporter on Monday, and alleged that without consent, Ghomeshi grabbed her hair and pulled her down to the floor. Then, she alleges, he delivered three sharp punches to the side of her head while she lay on the floor.
The woman had been invited to a taping of >play in 2002. Ghomeshi was the host of the CBC Newsworld TV show.
Det. Lisa Ferris of Toronto police’s sex crimes unit will be conducting an interview Saturday, said the woman, who has been assured by the police that her identity will be protected.
“I am meeting with the detective to tell them what happened to me,” she told the Star. “The truth. And we will see what happens.”
Graphic videos were presented by Ghomeshi to his bosses late last week, sources say, days before he was fired.
“CBC viewed scenarios where Jian Ghomeshi asks, for example, a woman to do something and she does it,” a source close to the matter told the Star. The source said Ghomeshi was trying to show “how bruising could happen and it could still be consensual.”
The Star has been told that Ghomeshi is in the videos.
According to sources, Ghomeshi was afraid that the story of his alleged activities was about to break and he was trying to convince the CBC that everything he had done in his sex life was consensual.
The Star does not know the identity of other people in the videos.
In a staff memo sent Friday afternoon, the CBC’s executive vice-president of English services, Heather Conway, confirmed that the CBC saw on Oct. 23 “for the first time, graphic evidence that Jian had caused physical injury to a woman.”
Conway’s memo says that after viewing the evidence, the CBC “determined that Jian’s conduct was a fundamental breach of CBC’s standard of acceptable conduct for any employee.”
Spokesman Chuck Thompson told the Star he couldn’t comment for legal reasons when asked if the CBC had considered going to police after the meeting.
The Q host was fired on Sunday afternoon by the CBC, his longtime employer. At the time, CBC said that information had come to its attention that “precluded” them continuing their association with the 47-year-old musician turned broadcaster.
In Ghomeshi’s Facebook posting later that Sunday night, he said he had been transparent with his employers over the previous months amid questions about his activities. The Toronto Star had presented questions to Ghomeshi in June and then again in September about alleged abuse of women as part of the newspaper’s investigation. As of Friday, nine women have been reported to have had issues of abuse or sexual harassment related to Ghomeshi.
Here’s what happened since April, according to the Star’s investigation.
On April 9, 2014, an anonymous Twitter posting from an account called @BigEarsTeddy began:
“Hi there Jian Ghomeshi. Remember louring me to ur house under false pretences? Bruises dont lie. Signed, every female Carleton U media grad,” states the post.
That put Ghomeshi on high alert, sources say. Ghomeshi spotted it almost as soon as it was posted. Sources of the Star, including some of his alleged victims, say Ghomeshi is intensely focused on his social media presence and frequently checks Twitter and Facebook to see if he is mentioned. He feared the worst — that someone would expose his alleged conduct.
CBC was worried, too. Ghomeshi was their golden boy. His Q show, which he cocreated, was considered a “flagship show” by the public broadcaster. It attracted dozens of top guests, including Barbra Streisand, Neil Young, Al Gore, Salman Rushdie and many more. Actor-musician Billy Bob Thornton’s on-air dust-up with Ghomeshi brought the host increased fame and helped create what CBC people call his “star power.”
The crisis firm Navigator was hired by Ghomeshi. From the start, sources say, Ghomeshi said that the Twitter posting and other allegations he was aware of were the work of a jilted ex-girlfriend.
The April posting was noticed by Canadaland podcaster Jesse Brown, a media critic, who interviewed three women who were making allegations against Ghomeshi. Brown brought the story to the Star, seeking help in doing a full investigation. The Star began its investigation, working with Brown as a freelancer, and by June the Star sent the first of two letters to Ghomeshi, after first contacting him by telephone. The Star told him that it would like to talk to him in person but could also provide a letter of questions.
The first letter, dated June 24, began:
“The Toronto Star is investigating allegations from women who say that you have been physically and verbally abusive to them during sexual encounters. These are very serious allegations and we want to give you every opportunity to respond and give your side of the story. We are continuing to investigate. The women we have interviewed to date, from different parts of the country, tell similar stories. In brief, they say that you physically attack them, without consent.”
“The women allege that you strike them with a closed fist or open hand; choke them with your hands around their neck to the point that they almost pass out; cover their nose and mouth so that they have difficulty breathing; and that you verbally abuse them before, during, and after sex acts. The women have told us that they did not consent to this behaviour,” the Star wrote in the letter.
Ghomeshi lawyer Neil Rabinovitch responded the next day, saying that “Mr. Ghomeshi has been harassed by a former girlfriend for several months.” The lawyer said that the ex-girlfriend had “contacted other women friends and former partners of his in an effort to find support for her allegations.”
Rabinovitch said Ghomeshi does “not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory, wrongly suggests criminal conduct by our client and is actionable.”
The Ghomeshi lawyer also said he had “reviewed email and text messages, as well as related material, between Mr. Ghomeshi and women he has had relationships with that will discredit the individuals we believe to be your sources and demonstrate the allegations that are now being made about our client are false.”
The Star went back to Rabinovitch and Ghomeshi, asking to see the information.
Rabinovitch wrote back after receiving the Star’s second letter saying that due to privacy concerns, he could not share the material.
The Star continued its investigation and during a chance meeting with Ghomeshi in September posed more questions to the Q host. Ghomeshi responded that his lawyers had told the Star there was “no story” and he was surprised the Star was still asking questions.
The CBC and Navigator, along with Ghomeshi’s publicist of 12 years, Rock-it Promotions, was aware of the correspondence between the Star and Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi told the CBC and Navigator that in September the Star was still on the story, sources say.
“Ghomeshi had a complicated explanation for how these allegations had come forward and were not true,” a source said, referring to Ghomeshi’s now very public position that he was part of a bondage-dominance-sadism-masochism community and that what he did in his private life was nobody’s business. Ghomeshi’s explanation also focused on his contention that his ex-girlfriend had lied about their relationship and somehow found others who joined her in lies about him.
By early October, with Ghomeshi still doing his show five days a week, CBC and Navigator thought the storm had passed, sources say.
Two weeks ago, Brown said in his podcast that he was working on a “monster” story that would be “worse than embarrassing for certain parties.” Brown has told the Star that he was referring to a different story, and it had nothing to do with Ghomeshi. Sources connected to CBC and Navigator said they now understand this to be the case.
But when Brown’s podcast came out, Ghomeshi’s concern over imminent publication prompted him to ask for a meeting with CBC late Thursday, Oct. 23. At that meeting, according to sources, he presented “material that we had not seen before.”
The material included photos and a series of videos “Ghomeshi believed were exculpatory of his conduct.” The sources say Ghomeshi went to great lengths to explain that during what he termed “consensual BDSM sex” it was possible to leave bruises.
The Star has not seen the videos, does not know how many there are and has only been told there is more than one.
In a recent story by the Star, one of the women the Star spoke to states that over the past year she confronted Ghomeshi and showed him pictures of her bruising. The woman says Ghomeshi told her that he found her bruises to be “hot.”
Sources say the CBC executives who viewed the videos began contemplating firing Ghomeshi by late Thursday. However, Ghomeshi was not told this. Discussions began at the CBC as to how to make the announcement.
On Sunday, CBC issued a brief statement saying they had parted company with Ghomeshi and the statement celebrated his contribution to the CBC and Q. However, when the Star immediately contacted CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson, Thompson told the Star (and later other media) that it had recently received “information” that “precludes us from continuing our relationship” with Ghomeshi.
In the statement of claim Ghomeshi filed Monday alleging defamation by Thompson and another CBC executive, Ghomeshi said he had gone in good faith to the CBC to speak to executives about his sexual practices and they had used that information against him.
CBC executives did not make any public statements on Ghomeshi until Friday, when CBC president Hubert Lacroix, in a statement titled “Note to Canadians,” said the allegations “have left me in shock, sadness, and some anger.”
He said that as a father of two young daughters, he empathizes with those “who have felt powerless to speak out, or who have tried to speak out and felt ignored.”
He reiterated that the CBC will be hiring an external firm to investigate allegations against Ghomeshi within the CBC. Spokesman Thompson said Friday that firm will be determined “very soon.”
Since Ghomeshi was fired on Sunday, a number of individuals and organizations have severed ties with him. These include Navigator, which sources say dumped him because Ghomeshi lied to them about the extent of the allegations against him, publicity firm Rock-It Promotions and several speakers’ bureaus.
On Friday, Ghomeshi was dumped by The Agency, a live booking firm, and Penguin Random House Canada, which was supposed to be publishing his next book. His former bandmates from Moxy Früvous, who had not played together since about 2000, said in a Facebook statement they were “sickened and saddened” by the allegations levelled against Ghomeshi.
Canadian musician Lights, who was discovered by Ghomeshi in 2007 and was managed by him for years, severed her relationship with him on Friday. She had initially defended Ghomeshi in a post the day after he was fired, before removing it and later apologizing.
“I hope everyone can heal from this,” she wrote on Friday.