The trial of Jian Ghomeshi, a former CBC radio host and rock artist, got underway Monday (Feb. 1) in Toronto, the first witness called to testify against Jian Ghomeshi told of being the victim of an alleged assault in 2002 after they started kissing at his home.
The disgraced Canadian media personality earlier entered a not guilty plea on all charges. The trial, with Judge William Horkins presiding, has no jury.
“We’re kissing, standing up too, but he ends up behind me, and he grabs my hair again, really hard, harder than the first time he did it. And he’s pulls my head down and at the same time he’s punching me in the head multiple times,” a Toronto woman, who can’t be named due to a publication ban, alleged in testimony at the Old City Hall courthouse.
That first witness told prosecutor Michael Callaghan she first met Ghomeshi while working as a food server during a Christmas 2002 party at the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster. After saying Ghomeshi had been “flirtatious” with her, the complainant said she was invited to tapings of a CBC Newsworld TV show, Play, that the former rock star was then hosting at the network.
The first alleged sexual assault against the young woman took place after attending her first CBC taping at the broadcaster’s Toronto headquarters — Ghomeshi offered to drive her to her car in a nearby parking lot. She recalled the CBC personality drove a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, which reassured her. “He’s driving a car that reminds me of a 1960’s Disney movie,” she said. “So I’m feeling very safe at the moment, when I’m with him.”
She and Ghomeshi at one point started kissing while in his car, she alleged that Ghomeshi reached behind her head with his hand to pull her hair. “When he’s kissing me, he reaches around behind my head, and he grabs my hair really, really hard, and pulls my head back and holds it there, I’d say, two or three seconds,” she alleged in her evidence to the court.
According to the woman’s testimony, as quickly as the alleged sexual assault started it was over, with Ghomeshi giving no sign of remorse or explanation for his actions. “I was… I wouldn’t say in shock, but I wasn’t sure what had just happened. He had been so nice. I didn’t really know what to do or so, and he had stopped,” she stated.
It was after the woman attended a third taping of Play show that she and Ghomeshi ended up back at his house, in his living room, where the second alleged sexual assault took place. She testified receiving possibly three punches on the side of her head.
“He was behind me, but it felt like a closed fist,” she testified. The young woman added she was in shock after the alleged violence in Ghomeshi’s home. “I don’t know why he’s doing this. I don’t know if he’s going to stop, or can I take this pain? And my ears are ringing and I felt like I was going to faint and pass out on his floor,” she testified. The complainant next remembered starting to cry, according to her testimony, which prompted Ghomeshi to ask her to leave.
“He threw me out like trash,” she testified.
After a lunch break Ghomeshi’s defense lawyer, Marie Henein, began her cross-examination.
Henein questioned why the woman insisted Ghomeshi had been driving a Volkswagen Beetle, or a “Disney car,” when, she argued, the former CBC radio host owned a GTI car at the time. “The car looked to me like a Beetle,” the woman told the court. Henein also questioned why the woman, in an email to an investigating Toronto police officer, misremembered wearing hair extensions during the first alleged sexual assault.
The woman also had to explain a Global National media interview in Nov. 2014, and other radio and TV appearances, where the complainant said she and Ghomeshi were not intimate when the first alleged hair-pulling incident occurred. The woman insisted she was battling nerves during the media interview, and did not fully recall events of over a decade earlier. “I disagree. It was not a lie,” the woman said on the stand, when remembering the Global National appearance.
“When I did this interview, it was a couple days after everything started happening in the news and, again this wasn’t carefully thought out,” she said. Ghomeshi was fired in Oct. 2014 by the CBC after the radio host showed his bosses graphic evidence of a women with injuries that he said were inflicted by him during consensual rough sex.
He allegedly believed it would absolve him of any wrongdoing. CBC executives felt otherwise. Ghomeshi will also face trial for a sixth charge of overcoming resistance by choking. That trial is scheduled to begin on June 6, 2016.