The lawyer for embattled prosecution witness Lucy DeCoutere struck back after her client left the stand in the Jian Ghomeshi trial: “Violence against women is not about the behaviour of the woman.”
Speaking for DeCoutere, lawyer Gillian Hnatiw stood on the steps of Old City Hall courthouse where Ghomeshi’s lawyer had revealed emails that showed DeCoutere and the former CBC host had a mutually flirtatious, sometimes crude relationship in the days after the alleged sexual assault.
“You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to f--- your brains out. Tonight,” DeCoutere wrote to Ghomeshi the day after the alleged 2003 choking and slapping incident during a date at his Riverdale home. Two weeks later, in a series of back and forth emails filed as exhibits, Ghomeshi told DeCoutere that he had been in Huntsville, “rolling cigars on the thighs of virgins.”
When DeCoutere finished explaining why she was flirtatious with a man who she says assaulted her, lawyer Hnatiw signalled that her client wanted to make a statement.
“Lucy wants survivors of violence to know that what they do in the aftermath when they are harmed in no way changes the truth,” Hnatiw told reporters. “It’s not about whether they see their abusers again or send flowers, anymore than it is about what they wore or how much they had to drink,” Hnatiw said.
“This is and remains a trial about Mr. Ghomeshi’s conduct. What Lucy did and how she felt in the aftermath of the assault does not change that essential fact,” she said.
The lawyer told reporters that despite two days of gruelling cross examination by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, the central allegations of the assault remain untouched. And, harkening back to Ghomeshi’s infamous Facebook posting the day he was fired in 2014, Hnatiw asked reporters to “be reminded that when these allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi first began to surface, he himself admitted he does enjoy engaging in violence for sexual pleasure.”
The first week of the trial ended in a cloud of uncertainty: A third complainant is set to testify but new information was recently provided to the Crown attorney, who has disclosed it to the defence, and both will take the weekend to sort it out. The Crown had booked three weeks for the trial, but he has refused to tell reporters any of the plans for his case.
Henein is entitled to call a defence — anyone from Ghomeshi to a witness who could attack a complainant’s story — but she, too, is keeping mum.
Witness complainants have been arranged by the Crown in chronological order and court documents show that the case against Ghomeshi relates to an eight-month time span in 2003. The first woman to testify alleges a January assault, DeCoutere early July, and the third complainant, who has not yet told her story, makes allegations of an assault on a park bench two weeks after the DeCoutere allegation.
Friday, DeCoutere was asked to explain emails and photos and one handwritten letter she sent to Ghomeshi following the alleged attack. Henein made her read some of the words into the record herself.
In one case, “I love your hands,” was the last line in a letter a few days after the alleged assault. Henein said this was significant. How could DeCoutere love the hands that, according to the witness, choked her? DeCoutere said she wanted to show that she was a forgiving person and that she was “pointing love to the very thing he used to hurt me.”
DeCoutere said she did not mean she wanted to have sex with Ghomeshi when she said she wanted to “f--- your brains out.”
Then there was the photo she sent Ghomeshi, showing DeCoutere, in Henein’s words, “fellating a beer bottle.” DeCoutere dismissed that as her weird sense of humour and said that this was a silly picture she had shared with others, too. DeCoutere, now 45, was 33 at the time of the alleged assault.
“In none of these encounters was I going to be romantic with Jian Ghomeshi,” DeCoutere said. She said she was conflicted in her relationship with Ghomeshi. She said she did not like his aggression, yet there were parts of his personality she did enjoy and that is why she cultivated a friendship. She dismissed as playful the many emails to Ghomeshi, such as the one inviting him for a “chance encounter in the broom closet,” or the one saying that if he did not hang out with her in Banff, Alta., at a television festival she would “beat the crap out of” him.
Throughout her testimony, DeCoutere, who plays a character on Trailer Park Boys and is a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, repeated her central allegation that she was choked for 10 seconds and slapped three times.
“That doesn’t change the fact he assaulted me,” she told Henein, responding to questions about her conduct after the alleged incident on July 4, 2003.
What Henein did not do in court was read many of Ghomeshi’s emailed words into the record, though the email chains containing them as part of the DeCoutere responses were filed in court.
Among the Ghomeshi lines following the alleged assault: “Why vote when you could spend that time masturbating?”, “Will be nice to see you, perhaps get plastered and prounce (sic) around to madonna’s greatest hits in public”, “It’s a gorgeous day in toronto. F--- Halifax”, “Was up in huntsville (went very well) and a bunch of other stuffs, y’know . . . rolling cigars on the thighs of virgins, etc.”
Court did not hear when and how the emails were retrieved by the Ghomeshi defence team, or whether there are more emails that, for whatever reason, were not filed in court. The trial continues Monday.