Monday, 16 May 2016

The downfall of a famous radio show host:  Ghomeshi    (part 1)

The real title of this article should be:  The spider and his flies.

This article is about one of the most sensationalized criminal court cases in Canada’s history and probably elsewhere. As you read on, you will understand why I made this statement.

In the years before the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio program called Q, Jian Ghomeshi was host of a culture and arts television program on CBC Newsworld. Ghomeshi was 35 at the time, still doing occasional singing gigs, but his CBC star was rising as he had developed a large following of loyal fans.

Ghomeshi had become a famous and powerful radio star with the CBC in Canada and then his world of fame and power collapsed around him. He said in a Facebook posting that he was the target of sexual assault allegations from a jilted lover, someone he had dated for more than a year and with whom he shared a “dominance and submission” relationship that was entirely consensual.

If you are wondering what 'Dominance and submission' is, you may receive almost as many answers as people who practice it. Simply stated, most participants in this form of activity would agree that D/s consists of a consensual relationship that is based around a power exchange between two people. One person is the controlling one, known as the Dominant; the other person is the controlled one and is known as the submissive (note that 'Dominant' is usually capitalized and that 'submissive' is not). The submissive gives a certain amount of 'power' to the Dominant person over their lives. This can be as simple as the Dominant telling them what to wear each day, or can be as complex as them having to ask the Dominant for permission to even leave the room. The important thing to note here is that we are talking about consensual relationships. The rights of the submissive are not taken from them because they are given freely during a period of negotiation.

 Many people (and I include myself) thought of this form of activity as situations where a dominant woman who has a whip in her hand has a dog’s leash in her other hand and forces the submissive male to walk on his hands and knees around the room like a dog. It is obviously more complex than that scenario.                                                                                                                
When two people are about to enter a D/s relationship, the first step is negotiation. This is a period where no power exchange occurs, but rather it is when there  is a discussion where the parameters of the relationship are discussed. How much power will the Dominant have over the submissive? What hard limits do both have; that is, to what activities are one or both opposed? What will be the safe words? What will be the period of that particular relationship? An hour?  Two hours?  It should be obvious by now that a D/s relationship is not for everyone.

Most of these particular relationships, even simple ones, contain power exchanges. In some relationships one partner is always Dominant, in other relationships whoever is Dominant changes almost constantly. That however, doesn't mean that the whole relationship should become a D/s one. Some couples only practice D/s in the bedroom, others in the home of one or both partners and others do it all the time and some once in a while.

Like all relationships, good communication is needed to keep a D/s relationship on track. What is important is that trust is essential to the success of a D/s relationship. But most of all, the relationship is consensual.

 And now, I will return you to Jian Ghomeshi and what he had done that forever destroyed his relationship with Canada’s largest radio and TV broadcaster.

On October 26, 2014, the CBC’ made a startling announcement it that it had abruptly severed ties with their pop culture radio host, Jian Ghomeshi. His firing happened right after he was ordered by his superiors to show them a photo of one of his female victims (an employee of CBC who complained) in which bruises on her face caused by him convinced the CBC officials that he had physically assaulted the woman without her consent. They didn’t accept his statement that she consented to him slapping and choking her.

Earlier in the day, his employer issued its own statement explaining that the CBC had decided to sever ties with one of the broadcaster’s biggest names. However, few details were offered. They said, “The CBC is saddened to announce its relationship with Jian Ghomeshi has come to an end. This decision was not made without serious deliberation and careful consideration. Jian has made an immense contribution to the CBC and we wish him well.”

Then, later in the day, the public broadcaster issued more information on social media. “Info came to our attention recently that in CBC’s judgment, precludes us from continuing our relationship with Jian Ghomesh.” The CBC’s announcement was followed by a tweet from the Giller Prize stating Ghomeshi would no longer be hosting its November 10th gala.

Ghomeshi, 47, said in a statement posted on Facebook “Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. We all have our secret life, but that is my private life.” Unfortunately for him, his private life soon after became public. I don`t mean just in the City of Toronto—I mean everywhere.

It initially seemed that Ghomeshi who was a best-selling author, former musician and popular broadcaster who has interviewed a plethora of prominent celebrities on his show was going to walk away from the CBC quietly after 14 years of service to that cross-Canada broadcasting entity.

He tweeted, “Thanks for all the well wishes, you guys. I’m OK. Just taking some much needed personal time.” He was destined to take a great deal of personal time off from his work.

Refusing to take his dismissal lying down, the host of the popular “Q” radio and TV show revealed that he planned to sue the public broadcaster for $50 million claiming he was fired because of his penchant for “rough” sex.

His lawyers in Dentons Canada LLP, subsequently announced their intention to file a lawsuit against the CBC seeking $50 million in damages. Ghomeshi also planned to file a grievance under the CBC’s collective agreement in a bid to get his job back. I don’t believe that went anywhere because it has been one year and six and a half months since he was fired from the CBC and if he was successful, he would have been rehired by now or would have received a large settlement.

His lawyers said, “Our client takes this matter seriously and we will be commencing legal proceedings against the CBC in relation to their conduct which led to Jian’s termination.”

Ghomeshi has posted a lengthy explanation on his Facebook hoping to set the record straight before the story spiralled further out of control.

Ghomeshi stated. “I was given the choice to walk away quietly and to publicly suggest that this was my decision. But I am not going to do that. Because that would be untrue. Because I’ve been fired and because I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been fired from the CBC because of the risk of my private sex life being made public as a result of a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer. As friends and family of mine, you are owed the truth.”

He claimed the whole mess began in the spring when he ended a relationship with a woman in her 20s whom he been seeing “on and off” for about a year.

According to him, during that time, they engaged in “adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex; forms of BDSM.” That acronym stands for Bondage & Discipline and Domination & Submission and Sadism & Masochism.

He claimed the woman encouraged their role-playing. “We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year.” Ghomeshi added that he did not wish to offer further details because “it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do.” In fact it is our business if he acted against the best interests of his victim when he in effect was physically assaulting her without her consent.

He went on to say. “I have never discussed my private life before.  Sexual preferences are a human right.” He is right of course providing it is consensual—which apparently in that particular case, his victim claimed that it wasn’t consensual.  

Ultimately, so he claimed, she wanted to take the relationship to the next level and he decided to end it. He then said, “She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others.” He claimed the break-up led to “a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization” that alleged that he had been “abusive”.

Ghomeshi said he informed the CBC about the “untrue allegations,” which he says led to months of anxiety, but in the end he was terminated. From what I know of this case, it was his victim who first notified the CBC of his conduct with her.

He claimed CBC executives told him they had no doubts the sex was consensual but his sexual behaviour was “unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC” and they were concerned the story may get out. In actuality, it got out as soon as he was fired from the CBC.

A Toronto Police source confirmed that no complaints had been filed against Ghomeshi. That is not uncommon. Many victims just live with the memories of the abuse.

Fast-forward a year and a bit after Ghomeshi’s October 2014 firing from CBC to his subsequent arrest on sexual assault charges.

The woman working in CBC and who complained about Ghomeshi to CBC officials and others who had relatively recent, lengthy and allegedly abusive relationships with the former CBC Q host, had not come forward to complain to the police. In interviews with the Toronto Star, they cited as their reasons for keeping silent—fear of online attacks, mistrust of the justice system, concerns over probing cross-examination by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, and a worry that their private lives would become public.

Instead, in an oak-paneled courtroom 125 in Old City Hall Ghomeshi was to face three accusers from more than a decade ago, at times when he was transitioning from Moxy Früvous singer to being a CBC mogul.

Jian Ghomeshi was charged with five criminal offences relating to four separate events, involving three different complainants. Two of the complainants are shielded from identification and so the judge  referrd to the complainant in counts 1 and 2 by the initials L.R. and the complainant in count 5 by the initials S.D.

LR later decided that she had no problem about being identified so after the trial was over and the verdict was given so subsequently, she publically identified herself as Linda Christina Redgrave, a Toronto mother of two.  In this article, I will refer to her as Linda.

The players in the trial   

Maria Henein has been described as a brilliant and hard-working defence layer with a ruthless cross-examination style. She is no stranger to taking on high-profile cases. Former clients include the former one-time attorney general of Ontario, Michael Bryant when he was charged with the death of a man riding a bicycle and later acquitted.

Michael Callaghan is an experienced trial lawyer. He was recently promoted to the Ministry’s criminal law division as a prosecutor. He has a reputation for being fair, knowledgeable and capable at his profession.

Jian Ghomeshi who is the accused was the CBC darling turned pariah following the sudden surfacing of allegations of violent sexual assaults and abuse, and sexual harassment in the workplace. Before he was fired by the CBC in in the workplace in October 2013, Ghomeshi was the host of the popular radio show, “Q”. In fact, he was considered a big honcho in the CBC since the show was so popular in Canada.

Linda Christina Redgrave was the first witness to testify against Ghomeshi at his trial.

The two other women who were victims of Ghomeshi and one of them cannot be identified due to a publication ban that is always available for sexual assault complainants if that is their wish. They also testified against Ghomeshi.

The allegations of these three women who first complained about Ghomeshi to the Toronto Star, related to brief encounters in which two of them occurred in his Riverdale home and one occurred on a park bench.

 The defence stated that it wanted a trial before a judge only. Justice William B. Horkins was to preside over the trial.  Since this was to be a complicated legal and factual issue that had to be determined, it was a wise choice on the part of the defence to choose to have the trial by a judge alone. That way, the defence and the Crown (prosecutor) can study the decision which would be greater in detail that simply disputing a jury decision which is almost impossible to dispute.

Ghomeshi pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. The charges before the court were as follows.

Much of the information I have with respect to the charges Ghomeshi was facing, I got from perusing through the transcript of the judge’s verdict and newspapers.

The complaint of Linda Christina Redgrave

  The charges against Ghomeshi with respect to Linda were two counts of sexual assault. The first assault was alleged to have occurred between December 1st and 31st, 2002 and the second assault was on January 2nd, 2003.

In Canadian law, a criminal "assault" is an intentional application of force to the person of another without that person’s consent. A "sexual assault" is an assault committed in sexual circumstances such that the sexual integrity of the victim is violated. 

 "Sexual assault" as defined in the Canadian Criminal Code covers a very broad spectrum of offensive activity; everything from an uninvited sexual touching to a brutal rape falls under the one title of "sexual assault". 

Linda first met Ghomeshi while working as a server at the 2002 CBC Christmas party. She felt that they made a connection. They flirted with each other and she found Mr. Ghomeshi to be charming and charismatic. When speaking of this first meeting, she reported: "He was smitten with me". He seemed very enthusiastic. Ghomeshi invited Linda to attend a future taping of his show PLAY and gave her a note with the time and the place of the taping.

The show was taped in a restaurant bar. Linda sat at the bar where she was close to Ghomeshi during the show. After the show he asked her to accompany him and some other CBC personalities to a nearby pub for a drink.

Linda remembered that Ghomeshi was sweet and humble. She recalled certain small details of the evening, for instance, he ordered a Heineken beer and she had ginger ale. She thought he was funny, intelligent, charming and a nice person.

Many psychopaths have those same traits. A psychopath is a person who is afflicted with a personality disorder that is characterized by a tendency to commit antisocial and sometimes violent acts and possesses a failure to feel guilt or have empathy towards others. 

   After about half an hour Ghomeshi and Linda left the pub. He drove her to her car that was parked a short distance away. Linda. had a clear and very specific recollection of his car being a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle. It struck her as being a "Disney car", a "Love Bug". She said she was impressed that he was not driving a Hummer or some such vehicle. The "Love Bug" car was significant to her because it contributed to her impression of his softness, his kindness and generally, that it was safe to be with him.

I don’t know if driving that car that night was his motive to seduce Linda into feeling safe with him but if it was his motive, it worked.

  When they arrived at the parking lot where Linda’s car was parked, they sat in his car and talked. Ghomeshi was flirtatious and it was sexually playful. He asked her to undo some of the buttons of her blouse and she said no. Still, she was flirting with him. While they were kissing, suddenly Ghomeshi grabbed hold of her long hair and yanked it "really, really hard". She said her thoughts at the time were: "What have I gotten into here?"

Linda described the yanking of her hair as being painful. Ghomeshi asked her if she liked it like that, or words to that effect. That question is what a sadist would ask. Sadists obtain sexual  gratification from inflicting pain on others.

They sat and talked for a while longer. Mr. Ghomeshi had reverted back to being very nice. Typical of a psychopath. It was confusing to Linda as she was unsure what to think. She wondered if maybe he did not know his own strength. They kissed goodbye. Linda then got out of the car and drove home. She continued to ask herself whether he had really intended to hurt her. Obviously, he did.

Linda was obviously very much taken with Ghomeshi. She was separated from her husband at the time and agreed that she was considering Ghomeshi as someone she would potentially be interested in going out with.

I can understand why Linda was interested in going out with Ghomeshi considering he was a well-known celebrity and she was probably lonely. However, I suspect that now she realizes that she had to be pretty naïve to think that a man who suddenly pulls her hair in a very painful manner for no reason at all is acting in a normal manner.

Nevertheless, she decided to attend another taping of Ghomeshi’s show. He met her there and was very nice to her. It was, to use her expression, "uneventful". Unbeknown to her, he was acting as a spider and she was his fly that was caught in his web.

During the first week of January 2003, Linda attended another taping of Ghomeshi's show. On this occasion she went with a girlfriend. Linda recounted that Mr. Ghomeshi was happy to see them. They interacted and after the show they all went to the pub. They were at the pub for less than an hour. Linda said that she flirted with Ghomeshi. He invited both women back to his home. Linda’s friend declined. After they dropped off her friend at the subway, Linda and Ghomeshi drove to his home.

 While at Mr. Ghomeshi’s home the music was playing. They had a drink, and they sat on the couch and talked. At one point Linda was standing up near the couch, looking at various things in the room and thinking what a charming person he was. Then, suddenly, "out of the blue", the spider came up behind the fly.  Ghomeshi grabbed her hair and pulled it. He then punched her in the head several times and pulled her to her knees. The force of the blow was significant. She later said that it felt like walking into a pole or hitting her head on the pavement. Linda even thought she might pass out.  It is a good thing she didn’t pass out.  I don’t intend to elaborate on that thought any further.

Then, suddenly again, the rage was gone and Ghomeshi said, "You should go now; I'll call you a cab, Linda waited for the cab then left. She later said, “He threw me out like the trash.”

Linda’s evidence was that at the time of these events in 2003, she never thought of calling the police. She did not think anyone would listen to her. Linda later said that she never saw Ghomeshi again after this incident. The fly had managed to escape and was smart enough to stay away from the spider and its web.

Over a decade later, Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC and the "Ghomeshi Scandal" broke in the media. Linda came forward publicly with her complaint in response to the publicity and specifically, in response to then Chief Blair of the Toronto Police Service who had been publically encouraging those with complaints about Jian Ghomeshi to come forward.

The trial judge had some concerns about Linda’s testimony. In his decision, he wrote;

“Prior to speaking with police, L.R. gave three media interviews about her allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi. In these interviews, she described the first assault as happening "out of the blue", as opposed to having happened in the midst of a kissing session. Her police statement was initially similar to her media interviews. It was only near the end of her police statement that L.R. had the hair pulling and kissing "intertwined". Then at trial, the account of the event had developed to the point of the hair pulling clearly occurring at the same time as "sensuous" kissing. The event had evolved from a “common” assault into a sexual assault.  When pressed about the shifting facts in her version of the events, L.R. explained that while she was giving the media interviews, she was unsure of the sequencing of events and therefore she didn't put it in.” unquote

“The day following her police interview, L.R. sent a follow up email to the police to explain that she remembered very clearly that she was wearing clip-on hair extensions during the hair pulling incident in the car. In cross-examination, L.R. testified that at some point she reversed this "clear" memory and is now adamant that she was not wearing clip-on hair extensions during the incident.” unquote

“ L.R. frequently communicated with police by email and phone. She met and spoke with Crown counsel. She did nothing to correct the misinformation she provided to the police about the hair extensions. Equally as concerning as the reversals on this point, was her claim that she had, in fact, disclosed this reversed memory to the Crown. When pressed in cross-examination, she conceded that this was not true.” unquote

“The day after her police interview, L.R. emailed the police to explain that she was then beginning to remember that during the car incident, Mr. Ghomeshi smashed her head into the window. In her previous four accounts of the incident, provided to police and the media, she had never claimed that her head had been smashed into the car window. Under cross-examination, she reverted to the version of the car incident with no head smash. She then added that her head had been resting against the window; something she had never mentioned previously, at any time.” unquote

“When pressed to explain these variations, L.R. said that at her police interview she was simply "throwing thoughts" at the investigators. When cross-examined about her new allegation of having her head smashed into the window, L.R. denied demonstrating in her sworn police video statement that her hair was pulled back towards the seat of the car, not towards or into the window. She persisted in her denial of this, even when the police video was played, clearly showing her demonstrating to the detectives how her hair was pulled back. Her explanation for this shifting in her evidence was that during the police interview she was high on nerves.” unquote 

  “L.R.'s memory about the assault at the house also shifted and changed significantly. She told the Toronto Star and CBC TV that she was pulled down to the floor prior to being assaulted at the house. She told CBC Radio that she was thrown down to the ground. Then she told the police that the events were "blurry" and did not know how she got to the ground. When trying to reconcile all of these inconsistencies she said that, to her, being "thrown" and being "pulled" to the ground are the same thing.” Unquote

“In her police interview, L.R. did not initially describe kissing as part of the alleged assault and was unable to describe a clear sequence of events. At trial, for the first time, she had kissing clearly intertwined with the alleged assault. She remembered kissing on the couch and kissing standing up. L.R. could not describe the conversation or what they were each doing prior to the assault. In her evidence in-chief, there was no mention of doing a yoga pose just prior to the assault. In cross-examination, L.R. was reminded of the yoga moves and her earlier statement that Mr. Ghomeshi was bothered by them.” Unquote

 “One of L.R.'s clear memories was simply, and demonstrably, wrong. She testified at length about Mr. Ghomeshi's bright yellow Volkswagen "Love Bug" or "Disney car". This was a significant factor in her impression that Mr. Ghomeshi was a "charming" and nice person. However, I find as a fact that Mr. Ghomeshi did not acquire the Volkswagen Beetle that she described until seven months after the event she was remembering.” Unquote

That was an enormous mistake. Did she make that statement erroneously because of a memory lapse or did she purposely make it up?

“Her description of his car was an important feature of her recollection of the first date. And yet we know that this memory is simply wrong. The impossibility of this memory makes one seriously question, what else might be honestly remembered by her and yet actually be equally wrong? This demonstrably false memory weighs in the balance against the general reliability of L.R.’s evidence as a whole.” Unquote

 There is a lesson to be learned here. If you are in any way involved in an incident, either as a participant or as a witness, then when you get home, write it all down.

Back in the 1970s, I was attacked by a retired boxer after having served his wife with a court document. I wrote down everything that man was doing to me and what I had done to him in response.

A month later, I was charged with assault. The following year I was in court facing the charge. The judge gave me permission to read what I had written down an hour after it happened. The man’s wife was called as a rebuttal witness and when she testified, her testimony was the same as mine. I was acquitted. I am sure that when the man’s wife heard my testimony, it brought the incident to the forefront of her memory.

 Linda was firm in her evidence that following the second incident she chose to never have any further contact with Ghomeshi. She testified that every time she heard Ghomeshi on TV or radio, she had to turn it off. She testified that he sound of his voice and the sight of his face made her relive the trauma of the assault.  She even claimed that she couldn’t even listen to the new host (Shad) of Q because of the traumatizing association with Ghomeshi.

The trial judge had a real problem with that statement.

“She sent a flirtatious email to Mr. Ghomeshi a year later. In her email, L.R calls Mr. Ghomeshi “Play-boy"; a reference to his show. She refers, oddly, to him ploughing snow, naked. She says it was "good to see you again." She is either watching him, or watching his show. "Your show is still great," she writes. She invites him to review a video she made and provides a hot link embedded into the body of the message. L.R. provides him with her email address and phone number so he can reply. Despite her invitation, she received no response. This is not an email that L.R. could have simply forgotten about and it reveals conduct that is completely inconsistent with her assertion that the mere thought of Jian Ghomeshi traumatized her.” Unquote

“Six months later, L.R. sent another email to Mr. Ghomeshi. In it she said, "Hi Jian, I've been watching you …" (here expressly referencing another TV show), "hope all is well." She attached to this email a picture entitled "beach1.jpg", which is a picture of her, reclined on a sandy beach, wearing a red string bikini. This is not an email that she could have simply forgotten about. It reveals conduct completely inconsistent with her assertion that the mere thought of Mr. Ghomeshi traumatized her. The negative impact that this after-the-fact conduct has on L.R.’s credibility is surpassed by the fact that she never disclosed any of this to the police or to the Crown.”  Unquote

WOW! When you consider all those blunders that appeared in her testimony, she doesn’t just have egg on her face—she has an omelette covering her from head to foot.

“It was only after she was confronted in cross-examination with the actual emails and attachment that L.R. suddenly remembered not just attempting to contact Mr. Ghomeshi but also that it was part of a plan. She said that her emails were sent as “bait” to try to draw out Mr. Ghomeshi to contact her directly so that she could confront him with what he had done to her.”

The judge remarked in his decision; “This spontaneous explanation of a plan to bait Mr. Ghomeshi is completely inconsistent with her earlier stance that she wanted nothing to do with him, and that she was traumatized by the mere thought of him. I am unable to satisfactorily reconcile her evidence on these points.” Unquote

It was Francis Bacon who said, “He who errs quickly is quick in correcting the error.”  However in respect to Linda’s testimony, in her effort to pull her feet out of the mud, she just got deeper into it.

 The expectation of how a victim of abuse will, or should, be expected to behave must not be assessed on the basis of stereotypical models. Having said that, I have no hesitation in saying that the behaviour of this complainant is, at the very least, odd. The factual inconsistencies in her evidence cause me to approach her evidence with great scepticism.” Unquote

 “L.R.'s evidence in-chief seemed rational and balanced. Under cross-examination, the value of her evidence suffered irreparable damage. Defence counsel's questioning revealed inconsistencies, and incongruous and deceptive conduct. L.R. has been exposed as a witness willing to withhold relevant information from the police, from the Crown and from the Court. It is clear that she deliberately breached her oath to tell the truth. Her value as a reliable witness is diminished accordingly.” Unquote

I think I can say with some certainty that Linda’s testimony went so far down the toilet, not even the Rooter Rotor Plumbing Service could retrieve it.

Part two of this series which will be published in two days (May 18th) it will describe the testimony of the second complainant. 

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