Jian Ghomeshi: Disgraced Canadian Star Pleads Not Guilty To Sexual Assault, Choking Charges

Though perhaps not widely known outside of Canada, for a period of time from about 2005 to 2014, Jian Ghomeshi almost defined what it meant to be Canadian. Almost every single Canadian could recognize Ghomeshi’s face and his voice. He had hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s television show >play and, later, the radio show Q.

The CBC is a Canadian institution that might be best described as a cross between PBS and the BBC. The CBC is a crown corporation that is funded by the Canadian government, though it also broadcasts and accepts payments for commercials, as any privately owned broadcaster would. The much-revered Canadian broadcaster has been the subject of budget cuts by various federal governments since the 1980s, as reported by the Tyee, long before the Ghomeshi scandal arose

In urban Canada, in addition to CBC programming, people watch many of the same television shows as their American counterparts and there is a large selection of radio stations to choose from. However, in rural Canada, which includes vast swathes of the country, particularly for those living with low incomes, there may only be one television or radio station to watch or listen to: almost invariably it will be run by the CBC.

Jian Ghomeshi at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Jian Ghomeshi at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Jian Ghomeshi transcended this urban/rural divide that permeates almost every aspect of Canadian culture. Ghomeshi’s voice spoke to, and resonated with, urban hipsters as much as it did members of remote First Nations communities and almost everyone in between. Ghomeshi was seen as as the every Canadian. From newly arrived immigrants to women to minorities to “old stock” Canadians, everyone loved Jian Ghomeshi. So much so that his 2012 non-fiction book, 1982, was described as “trying to appeal to everyone, and spreading himself too thin,” by the National Post.

Ghomeshi’s downfall became the center of Canadian news just days after a lone gunman ran wild through Canadian Parliament on October 22, 2014, leaving Corporal Nathan Cirillo dead and the nation on edge.

It all started with a cryptic announcement by the CBC that Ghomeshi had been let go. The initial reaction of many was to run to his defense. Almost 5,000 people signed a petition demanding that the CBC keep its nose out of the personal lives out of beloved celebrities, such as Ghomeshi. What began as a flood of support for Ghomeshi from across all sectors of Canadian society quickly turned into a quiet trickle from seeming men’s movement supporters and Internet trolls, as more and more bizarre details of Ghomeshi’s life came into public view, as recounted by what seemed to begin as one, and then turned into a chorus of accusers — including many women and at least one man.

Jian Ghomeshi pleads not guilty in Toronto.
Jian Ghomeshi at the Canada for Haiti Benefit in 2010 in Toronto.

The news that Jian Ghomeshi was being accused by not just one, but a whole group of people for alleged violent sexual assaults rocked Canadian society to its very core. He first tried to cover his tracks by calling his dismissal an attempt to “smear” him by an ex-girlfriend in a lengthy Facebook post that has since been removed, but has been reprinted by the Toronto Star. Ghomeshi also launched a $55 million lawsuit against the CBC, which he has since dropped and been ordered to pay the broadcaster’s $18,000 in legal fees.

Gomeshi appeared in Toronto’s Old City Hall yesterday and pleaded not guilty to “four charges of sexual assault and one charge of choking to overcome resistance,” as reported by the Toronto Star. Ghomeshi has also been charged with one additional count of sexual assault that is to be tried separately. Two counts of sexual assault had been dropped by crown prosecutors who felt that the chances of a conviction were slim, as reported by the CBC. His plea was his first utterance in court since the charges were first laid.

The disgraced Canadian star has admitted to taking part in what he has deemed “consensual” rough sex. The alleged incidents took place between 2002 and 2008. Ghomeshi is free on $100,000 bail and conditions that he must live with his mother and remain in Canada. He faces possible life in prison if convicted.

The names of all who have made allegations against Ghomeshi are under a publication ban, except for Lucy DeCoutere of the television show and films Trailer Park Boys.

DeCoutere’s lawyer Gillian Hnatiw was quoted.

“… on average, there are only six convictions for every 1000 sexual assaults that occur in this country‎. That number is unlikely to change if we continue to scrutinize the lives of the victims over the conduct of the accused.”

“Fundamentally, the case is about the alleged behavior of Mr. Ghomeshi. It is important to victims everywhere that we remain focused on that fact.”

[Photo by Sonia Recchia / Getty Images — Photo by Peter Bregg / Getty Images — Photo by Malcolm Taylor / Getty Images]