The only complainant whose name is not covered by a publication ban took the stand Thursday in the sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi.
Trailer Park Boys actor Lucy DeCoutere said that months after Ghomeshi allegedly choked and slapped her, they met at a karaoke event in Banff, where he joined her onstage mid-song to perform a duet of Britney Spears song “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”
She called the song choice “intensely ironic.”
After the alleged assault, they also interacted following Ghomeshi’s infamous Billy Bob Thornton interview on his CBC Radio show Q, when she posted on Facebook in support of the actor. Ghomeshi responded by email to say that her message felt like it was a slap in the face.
When cross-examination began, Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, questioned how well DeCoutere could recall the night because she had apparently added more details while testifying in court that did not emerge in 19 police and media interviews.
Henein said DeCoutere had added details about pauses between slaps and kissing Ghomeshi good night.
The lawyer pressed DeCoutere on why she chose to cuddle and kiss Ghomeshi that night, and attend several events with him over the following week.
She showed the court images of the actor smiling at brunch with Ghomeshi.
DeCoutere responded she did so because the “way he was with me after he assaulted (me), I felt like I missed something. I was just checking.”
Henein asked why she originally said she did not want to press charges, but later wrote in messages that she wanted Ghomeshi “f---ing decimated” and “the guy is a s---show.”
DeCoutere allegedly told a friend that she was excited for the trial because it would be “theatre at its best,” according to Henein.
The defence lawyer referred to the emails exchanged between the duo. Just before the court broke for the day, Henein asked if DeCoutere wanted to tell the judge about the real conversation that was going on, to which DeCoutere responded: “I’m not sure what you mean.”
DeCoutere earlier described her initial conversation with Ghomeshi at the Banff television festival in 2003 as friendly, playful, flirtatious and cheeky.
She said she left thinking he might be a fun person to spend time with, and they exchanged “sort of hilarious emails that were cheeky and fun” over the next while.
Those emails included “irreverent, joking allusions to sexual acts that were outrageous,” including the description of an act known as a “rusty trombone.”
After meeting for dinner in Toronto at a later date, DeCoutere agreed to go back to his home, adding that it was “not like he was going to kill me when we went back to his house.”
She said she had no interest in having sex with Ghomeshi, but knew there was a chance they might be intimate. On the walk to his home, DeCoutere said he repeatedly tried to kiss her.
Once back at his home, she alleges that they began kissing suddenly and Ghomeshi hit her three times and began choking so she couldn’t breathe for about 10 seconds.
DeCoutere said she consented to the kissing, but was not able to consent to the choking or slapping, which began almost immediately after the kissing.
“I was just receiving it,” she said. “It is impossible to consent to something that you are not asked.”
The actor, who is also a Royal Canadian Air Force captain, said the slaps were “hard enough that it got my attention. Not hard enough to leave a mark.”
She didn’t want to be rude, which she now calls a “ridiculous concern,” so she remained in the home for an hour, although she did not feel fully safe.
DeCoutere said the hitting and choking seemed more like a power thing than a sexual act.
They sat on the sofa and she cannot recall accurately if she kissed him. They did not speak about what happened.
She felt sorry for him and didn’t tell people out of a desire to protect him, and she did not know what happened was illegal.
DeCoutere says they went together to brunch, an industry party, and later to a BBQ at one of his friend’s homes.
She did not experience violence with him that weekend, just his “extreme moodiness.”
In addition to the karaoke event, DeCoutere says she later saw him at the Gemini Awards, where he put his hand on her throat. She also appeared on his CBC show, Q, to promote Trailer Park Boys.
Prior to DeCoutere’s testimony, the judge ruled against granting the media access to a photo of the first complainant, which was entered as evidence.
A number of media outlets had asked for access to the photo, which the unnamed complainant sent to Ghomeshi by email. The court heard the photo showed her in a bikini.
Lawyer Iris Fischer argued that the public should see what information the judge uses to decide the case, and that the photo shows the woman on a public beach wearing attire that women wear every day.
Fischer said the woman’s face and any identifying marks would be blurred, and emphasized that media outlets would adhere to the publication ban protecting the woman’s identity.
The complainant’s lawyer, Jacob Jesin, countered that withholding the photo was necessary to prevent the identification of his client. He said that “has not and will not impair in any way (media) from adequately reporting what goes in this courtroom.”
Justice William Horkins noted that withholding the image was clearly a “departure” from the default position of transparency with exhibits.
However, he also added he had “grave concerns” about the potential effect of releasing it.
In this case, he said, the image “has been thoroughly and sufficiently described on the record . . . you don’t need to see it to get the picture,” and, therefore, ordered the picture remain sealed.
Ghomeshi has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to overcome resistance.
Over the first two days of the trial, Horkins heard the witness, whose identity is under a publication ban, describe two alleged sexual assaults from late 2002/early 2003: one where she said Ghomeshi pulled her hair forcefully while kissing her in his car, the other in his home where she said he pulled her hair and punched the side of her head multiple times.
But over about four hours of cross-examination Ghomeshi’s lawyer challenged the complainant on inconsistencies in her account and ended by suggesting she outright lied, dramatically revealing “flirtatious” emails contradicting the complainant’s repeated claims that she had no contact with Ghomeshi after the alleged sexual assaults.
The complainant said she’d sent the emails — one included the photo of her in a bikini that remains under publication ban — as “bait” for Ghomeshi to call her so she could ask him why he punched her violently in the head.
— with files from The Canadian Press