Friday, April 01, 2016

"These were articulate, mature women who set out to destroy a man’s life, seemingly as payback for his rejection of them years before."

The Ghomeshi trial and the cult of #ibelievewomen | Crime and the law | Love and sex | spiked: "Ghomeshi was sacked by CBC in 2014 following an allegation that he had injured a woman. Perhaps unwisely, Ghomeshi posted a self-justificatory Facebook article after his sacking, insisting that, while he liked rough sex, his encounters had always been consensual. The floodgates opened. Various women used the media to accuse him of past sexual misconduct, and he became the subject of a social-media witch-hunt. Bill Blair, chief of the Toronto Police Service, then made a bizarre public appeal to women to report Ghomeshi, stating that the police’s hands were tied unless women complained to them. Predictably, some women then went to the police. The feminist commentariat united to denounce Ghomeshi, and the #ibelieve movement swung into action. Much handwringing ensued about the ordeal women alleging sexual violence face. Things looked bad for Ghomeshi, who by then had effectively been convicted in the court of public opinion...

A striking feature in the complainants’ accounts was the way their stories kept changing. LR met Ghomeshi at an event she was working at, and he invited her to a recording of one of his shows. After attending the show, she claimed that she sat with Ghomeshi in his bright yellow Volkswagen, which she called a ‘Love Bug’, and said that it made her feel safe. They were kissing and he suddenly and without warning pulled her hair. She left soon after, but agreed to meet Ghomeshi again in a bar for another recording, this time accompanied by a friend. Her friend left and he then took her to his house where they listened to music. She claimed that he suddenly and without warning pulled her hair, punched her in the head and forced her to the ground. Then he called her a cab and she left. 

LR gave three media interviews before she spoke to police. She did not initially tell police that they had been kissing, instead alleging that the assault came out of the blue. Later she emailed police to say that she distinctly remembered wearing hair extensions: a detail she withdrew in court. At trial she attempted to explain inconsistencies in her account by saying that she was simply ‘throwing thoughts’ at the police. For instance, she had asserted that Ghomeshi smashed her head against a car window – a detail she had not mentioned before. In fact, Ghomeshi did not purchase the yellow Volkswagen until seven months after the alleged assault. 

LR also claimed that she had purposely avoided any contact with Ghomeshi following these alleged incidents. However, in court the defence produced emails from her to Ghomeshi in friendly terms, one attaching a picture of her wearing a string bikini. Ghomeshi had not responded to these overtures. In court, LR claimed that she had forgotten sending these emails, but then suddenly remembered that she had sent them as part of a plan, whereby she would bait him in order to confront him. The judge said the factual inconsistencies in her evidence made him approach her case with great scepticism. He described her behaviour as ‘odd’.

DeCoutere’s behaviour was even more inexplicable. She met Ghomeshi at a film festival in 2003. She liked him and arranged to meet him one weekend. They had dinner and she went to his house. She says that he unexpectedly put his hand on her throat and pushed her against a wall, choking her and slapping her face. She said she was shocked, but stayed and listened to music and then left. Later she sent him flowers. In 2004, they sang together at a karaoke event. DeCoutere omitted to tell police that she had been kissing Ghomeshi on the way back to his house, and on the sofa both before and after the alleged assault. 

She also did not tell police or prosecutors about an email she sent him a few days later, which said ‘I want to fuck your brains out’, or about a six-page love letter she sent him, which concluded: ‘I love your hands.’ In court, when confronted by this, she said she was trying to ‘normalise’ things. Nor did she tell the authorities that she and Ghomeshi were photographed cuddling in a park some days later. She also failed to reveal a number of other friendly emails between them, clearly evincing an interest in an ongoing relationship. The judge was scathing about this, saying that she was clearly hoping she could get away with this non-disclosure. He disbelieved her explanation that she thought her first opportunity to open up about this was during the hearing itself, saying she had literally dozens of pre-trial opportunities to come clean. He found as a fact that she had attempted to mislead the court, commenting that her behaviour was manipulative and cast considerable doubt on her trustworthiness as a witness...

In summing up, the judge said that the standard of proof in criminal proceedings is very high: it is not enough to think that someone is probably guilty. The court has to be sure of guilt. ‘Similar fact’ evidence was inadmissible, therefore the accusers could not rely on the existence of other accusations to shore up their own accounts. All that each accuser could rely on was her own unsupported word. Given that each accuser’s evidence was tainted not just by inconsistencies and questionable behaviour, but ‘outright deception’, it was impossible for the court to treat their accounts as reliable or sincere...

From an orthodox legal standpoint, Ghomeshi’s acquittal was inevitable...

These were articulate, mature women who set out to destroy a man’s life, seemingly as payback for his rejection of them years before. Unluckily for them, Ghomeshi had retained evidence of their attempts to pursue a relationship with him. His case shows that women can be both manipulative and deceptive when jumping on the feminist bandwagon. If anything has set the feminist cause back, it is the behaviour of these complainants. It is high time that apologists for the cult of #ibelieve recognise that inconsistencies and withholding information are not a sign of veracity, but a potential red flag. Adult complainants must expect their accounts to be probed rigorously, if the justice system is not to be taken for a ride."

Christie Blatchford: Ghomeshi verdict was magnificent, compared to trial by press or social media | National Post: "Judge William Horkins Thursday acquitted former CBC golden boy Jian Ghomeshi of a raft of historic sexual assault charges. And Horkins, properly but nonetheless bravely in the current climate, placed the responsibility for the collapse of the case squarely where it belongs – with the three women who were Ghomeshi’s accusers.

While Horkins acknowledged that “courts must guard against applying false stereotypes concerning the expected conduct of complainants” in sex assault and abuse cases, and said he understood very well that complainants can behave unpredictably and oddly, that wasn’t what happened here. Instead, as he put it, in an unmistakeable slap to hashtag justice (the #ibelievewomen crowd) and the likes of those who stood with placards outside Old City Hall, “the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.” Having a pair of breasts, in other words, doesn’t entitle the owner to unquestioned belief...

As for DeCoutere, who failed to disclose that she had wooed Ghomeshi by email for at least a year after he allegedly slapped and choked her in July 2003 — even after she gave police a second statement on the eve of taking the witness stand – the judge said, “It became clear at trial that (she) very deliberately chose not to be completely honest with the police … (she) proceeded to consciously suppress relevant and material information… It indicates a failure to take the oath seriously and a wilful carelessness with the truth.”  As for DeCoutere’s explanation that she always intended to reveal the full story, the judge said she “had literally dozens of pre-trial opportunities to provide the full picture to the authorities. “I suspect the truth is she simply thought that she might get away with not mentioning it.” 

Horkins described an email DeCoutere sent Ghomeshi within 24 hours of the alleged choking incident — in which she wrote, “You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to f–k your brains out. Tonight.” — this way: “There is not a trace of animosity, regret or offence taken, in that message.” DeCoutere and the third complainant, S.D., exchanged more than 5,000 messages, many discussing the progress of the charges through the courts. Their animus to Ghomeshi — “time to sink the pr–k”, “he’s a f–king piece of sh-t”, etc. — then and now, the judge said, was clear and is evidence of their “extreme dedication to bringing down” the man. The justice system, built as it is by humans, is surely imperfect. But compared to the alternatives — trial by press or social media in the absence of investigation and sometimes, as with the two Liberal MPs who were driven from Ottawa the same year as Ghomeshi was charged, even a forum for the accused to speak — it is brilliant, occasionally even magnificent, as it was this day."

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