The news comes as a surprise to many and has already triggered protests outside of a Toronto courthouse. Jian Ghomeshi, prominent radio host and media personality, has been cleared of the choking and sexual assault charges he was facing. The former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio host was facing four charges of sexual assault. He also faced a charge of choking to overcome resistance. That charge held a possible sentence of life in prison. The judge explained his ruling for an hour and a half after the verdict was given. He said, though Ghomeshi may have been guilty, there was not sufficient proof. The judge used harsh phrasing when referring to the testimonies of the accused, calling the accusations dishonest.
Jian Ghomeshi is 48 years old and is of Iranian descent. He was born in England, but grew up in Canada and currently lives in Toronto. He served as the drummer of semi-popular rock band Moxy Fruvous in the early 2000s. After that, he became a radio and television presenter in a variety of capacities. Around the time allegations were beginning to swirl around his name, he had achieved substantial fame and influence. He has interviewed many of the world’s biggest celebrities, and his radio show was very popular across North America, and especially in Canada. He published a book, 1982, in 2012. A second book was planned, but his publisher cancelled the book after allegations against him were publicized.
Since the verdict was announced earlier today, there has been a considerable amount of backlash online, with most of the commenters showing support for the accusers. Ghomeshi’s name has been trending on Twitter since the news broke, and the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors has emerged. The protesting has not been limited to the digital realm, however. Protestors chanted “We believe women,” repeatedly outside of the courthouse. The protestors were there in the morning as the accused walked into the courtoom, and they were still there after the verdict was handed down. A topless protestor with an anti-Ghomeshi phrase written on her body was tackled by police. When asked, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to comment on the case, except note the importance of reconsidering how Canada’s legal system treats such cases. Some legal experts have made the observation that the verdict puts a spotlight on issues with the current court system.
Two of the accusers in the case have not had their identities revealed to the media because of a publication ban. The third is Lucy DeCoutere. DeCoutere is known for having been an actress in the show Trailer Park Boys. She was expected to offer a statement after the verdict came, but instead she left swiftly with a grim smile on her face.
Accusations against Jian Ghomeshi began to mount around 2010, while he was working for his very popular radio program, Q. A producer of the show made complaints to her bosses that Ghomeshi had been sexually and psychologically abusive towards her. The claims were not investigated, and Ghomeshi went unpunished. Additionally, students of a Canadian journalism program were told not to take internships at Ghomeshi’s show because of his inappropriate behaviour. In 2013, a journalist made a blog post in while she described a date with Ghomeshi. Though she didn’t mention his name, she made clear references to his identity. In the blog post, she said that he had made unwanted physical advances towards her.
In 2014, it became public knowledge that various publications were looking to publish accounts of further sexual abuse committed by Jian Ghomeshi. After an investigation by the CBC, they fired him. Their statement about the firing said that they had uncovered information that made it impossible to continue working with him. Ghomeshi filed a lawsuit against CBC for wrongful termination which he would later withdraw. He posted a long post on his Facebook account. In the post, he defended himself from the accusations and accused his accusers of running smear campaigns against him. More and more witnesses came forward and their stories repeatedly made appearances on television, in newspapers, and on the radio. In late 2014, Ghomeshi turned himself over to police and was charged. Later, he hired one of Canada’s most powerful and famous lawyers, Marie Henein, to defend him.
In 2015, Jian Ghomeshi faced further charges. His lawyer said that he would be pleading not guilty to all of the charges. Further investigations were launched against him. One of the investigations was conducted by CBC and one was conducted by a Canadian university. They found that Ghomeshi was constantly violating workplace regulations. For the rest of 2015, he lived with his mother and kept a low profile while other CBC workers involved in the scandal stepped down or were fired. Near the end of last year, he pled not guilty to the charges as predicted. All of the charges dated between the years 2002 and 2003.
The trial itself began in February of this year and lasted for eight days. His lawyer’s strategy was to undermine the testimony of the witnesses and make them seem unreliable. Ghomeshi did not speak at the trial, and his choice not to defend himself verbally has been considered to have lead to his victory. Witness testimonies included description of sudden violence from Ghomeshi in intimate situations. Included in the testimonies were stories of punching, choking, and pulled hair. However, during testimony, constant inconsistencies came up. These inconsistencies included places and dates, the nature of correspondences, and the type of car Ghomeshi drove.
In the courtroom, Henein presented emails and letters from the witnesses that depicted them communicating affectionately with Jian Ghomeshi after the alleged assualts had taken place. Henein also presented a photo of one of the witnesses in a bikini. The witness had sent the photo to Ghomeshi one year after the alleged assault took place. Henein argued that this undermined the testimony.
The prosecution argued that the correspondences didn’t undermine or change the facts of the testimonies. Earlier today, the judge sided with the defence. He called the accusations baseless and the testimonies inconsistent and deceptive. Ghomeshi was cleared of all the charges.
After the verdict, Jian Ghomeshi continued his trend of not speaking at the trial. He hugged his family and left the courtroom without speaking to media. His sister delivered a prepared statement on behalf of their family, in which she said their family was relieved. She said she wasn’t surprised by the verdict, and the only people who found the verdict surprising were those who passed judgement before hearing all the facts. Despite the complete acquittal, Ghomeshi isn’t off the hook yet. He faces one more charge of sexual assault, with that trial set to get underway in a few months.