A year after allegedly choking Lucy DeCoutere and slapping her in the face, Jian Ghomeshi stole her mic during a karaoke performance to sing Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time," the court heard Thursday, in testimony that painted the former CBC host as a petulant narcissist.
DeCoutere, the Trailer Park Boys actress and the only complainant in Ghomeshi's sex assault trial without a publication ban on her identity, told Ontario Judge William Horkins of a relationship that started out "playful" before quickly taking a dark turn.
She testified that she met Ghomeshi at the Banff World Television Festival, an industry networking event, in June 2003. They chatted for a bit, and he asked if DeCoutere was American because "I didn't know a lot about the work that he had done."
At the end of the event, DeCoutere, who lived in Halifax at the time, said Ghomeshi handed her his business card, which she assumed was in a "romantic" context because there was no potential for doing business together.
"I came away thinking Mr. Ghomeshi was a playful, fun person," she said, and she told the court the two began emailing flirtatious exchanges daily. DeCoutere admitted she has a dirty sense of humour, which was reflected in her emails with Ghomeshi. At one point they discussed slang for sexual acts, including the term "rusty trombone," which she told the court means " there's anal play with tongue and you give somebody a hand job."
(Ghomeshi's mom and sister were present in court at the time.)
She said the former Q host tried to engage her in unironic sex talk, which she "shut down." In July, she visited Toronto, in part to spend time with him and see if there was a romantic connection. At a dinner on the Danforth, DeCoutere said Ghomeshi spent a considerable amount of time talking about his success.
He then told her he wanted to "go back to his house, listen to music and hold me." DeCoutere told the court it was "cheesy" and she felt uncomfortable, but agreed to go back to his Riverdale home. On the way, she said he made a few attempts to kiss her but it felt forced.
Once inside, Ghomeshi gave her a tour of his home. When they got to his closet, she noticed his shirts were arranged specifically by colour. That's when she said Ghomeshi assaulted her.
"We were outside of his closet he started kissing me and he took me by the throat and pushed me against the wall, cutting off my breath," DeCoutere told the court. She said he slapped her three times.
"I was slapped twice and then again... The way I remember it there was a pause."
The encounter was silent, she said, though she recalls her face being frozen and "serious."
When asked by the Crown if she consented to the alleged assault, DeCoutere said, "It's impossible to consent to something you're not asked, so no I didn't consent to it."
Afterward, she said they sat on Ghomeshi's couch and he played guitar; they kissed goodnight.
DeCoutere said she was "bewildered" by the encounter but didn't want to leave so as not to anger Ghomeshi or seem rude.
She said the attack was not sexual in nature.
"Somebody puts their hand on your throat and cuts off your airway, that's not sexual. That's 'I could kill you.'"
DeCoutere said the pair had plans to hang out the rest of the weekend, and she obliged them, thinking maybe the incident was a "one-off." She testified she didn't bring up the choking.
"I felt like I put myself in this place so I have to get over it," she said.
In her testimony, DeCoutere painted the picture of a weekend full of socially awkward encounters with Ghomeshi and hints towards his jealous behavior. After introducing her to his friends, one of whom was black, the other Asian, she said Ghomeshi later accused her of being "racist," suggesting she wasn't embracing Toronto's multiculturalism.
She also testified the former radio host was "on the verge of tears a few times" including when she stepped on his glasses. At an industry party, he found her chatting with a group of men and asked if there was a time he could leave her alone and "not come back to find you with a semi-circle of men."
By the end of the trip, DeCoutere said she was certain she had no romantic future with Ghomeshi. She sent him thank you flowers for hosting her once she was back home. Later in the year, she bumped into him at the Gemini Awards in October of that year and he "put his hand on my throat to remind me he had choked me."
She said she next saw Ghomeshi at the Banff TV festival in 2004. She hung out with him and he complained that she hadn't bought him a birthday present. Then, at the same karaoke event they'd met a year prior, she got onstage to perform.
"Jian actually came up onstage and took my mic and turned it into a duet," she said. The song? Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time."
Later, he allegedly told her, "I ruined my career by singing with you."
But that wouldn't happen for another decade, after the Toronto Star printed allegations about Ghomeshi's abusive behaviour toward women. DeCoutere, who seemed calm and relaxed during her testimony, said she initially had no intention of going to the police.
She did media interviews, thinking "Oh my god, I'm not the only person that he did this too?"
At least eight women have spoken to the media, accusing Ghomeshi of similar abuses. Three of them are testifying at this trial. The fourth woman will have her allegations heard in a separate trial later this year.
Ghomeshi's lawyer Marie Henein will begin cross-examination of DeCoutere this afternoon.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter for live updates from the trial.