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Jian Ghomeshi Apologizes for ‘Sexually Inappropriate' Behavior as Sex Assault Charge Dropped

By signing a peace bond, former CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi will dodge a second sexual assault trial that was scheduled for June 6. He was acquitted of five other sex assault charges earlier this year.

by Hilary Beaumont
May 11 2016, 2:50pm

Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

Former Canadian media star Jian Ghomeshi has avoided a second sexual assault trial by apologizing in court to Kathryn Borel, his former coworker, admitting his conduct toward her "was sexually inappropriate."

After accepting responsibility and signing a peace bond, the judge withdrew a charge of sexual assault at the Crown attorney's request.

But in a statement outside the courthouse afterward, Borel told media there were many other women who came forward with similar allegations against Ghomeshi, and she didn't consider the matter closed. Earlier this year, a judge cleared the former CBC radio host of five sex assault charges.

"He hasn't taken the stand on any charge," Borel told reporters. "All he has said about his other accusers is that they're all lying and that he's not guilty. And remember, that's what he said about me."

"I think we all want this to be over, but it won't be until he admits to everything that he's done."

Borel alleged Ghomeshi grabbed her from behind and pushed his pelvis into her repeatedly, simulating sex, while working at the CBC several years ago.

Ghomeshi told the court he had spent the last 18 months reflecting on his behavior toward his former CBC co-worker, and has been seeing a therapist.

"I now recognize that I crossed boundaries inappropriately," Ghomeshi read aloud from a statement with his familiar radio voice. "A workplace should not have any sexualized tone. I failed to understand how my words and actions would put a coworker who was younger than me and in a junior position to mine, in an uncomfortable place," he said, in part.

"This incident was thoughtless and I was insensitive to her perspective and how demeaning my conduct was towards her. I understand this now," he said. He did not specify what conduct he was apologizing for.

"I apologize to my family for letting them down," he said, mentioning his mother and sister

"I regret my behavior at work with all of my heart," he said.

Related: Former Canadian Media Star Jian Ghomeshi Acquitted of All Charges in Sex Assault Trial

After reading his apology to the court, Ghomeshi embraced family members sitting in the front row.

Ghomeshi's statement delivered to the court "does not amount to an admission on his part to any criminal offense," Judge Timothy Lipson said.

If he breaches his recognizance in the next 12 months, he could be charged, the judge said. Judge Lipson commended the Crown lawyers and the defense for reaching the resolution he called "entirely reasonable."

Ghomeshi's defense lawyer Marie Henein said that by apologizing her client made "no admission to the facts" read aloud by the Crown.

"The public interest is best served through this resolution," Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan told the court.

Before court proceedings began Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan joked that he would not be commenting to media afterwards due to a previous incident in which a topless protester had launched herself into a scrum of reporters as he spoke.

In March, amid a media circus and heated protests, another judge, Justice William Horkins, cleared Ghomeshi of all five counts of sexual assault and overcoming resistance against him, declaring that the three women who accused him of hitting, slapping and choking them had not been entirely truthful on the stand and were not reliable witnesses.

The tone in the courtroom Wednesday morning was more subdued than more than a month earlier when throngs of reporters had jammed inside while protesters chanted outside. As he entered the courtroom wearing a grey suit and a relaxed expression, Ghomeshi waved to supporters in the front row.

It was alleged that after Borel joined the CBC as an assistant producer of Q in 2007, the two colleagues were working late one night in 2008. Borel bent over her desk to pick up papers and Ghomeshi allegedly grabbed her from behind by her waist and pushed his pelvis into her for several seconds. Both were fully clothed at the time.

While the first trial involved sexual assault allegations from three separate women in the context of dating relationships, Borel's case involved allegations of sexual assault within Canada's publicly funded broadcaster, the CBC.

The CBC fired Ghomeshi from his job as the host of the arts and culture radio show Q after management viewed "graphic evidence" that he had "caused physical injury to a woman," according to the Toronto Star.

Prompted by his firing, in November 2014 the CBC retained a lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior by the radio host.

After interviewing 99 witnesses, the investigation found a small number of cases that qualified as sexual harassment by Ghomeshi, including "unwanted" and "creepy" back massages, and one case where he "subjected a female employee to unwanted physical contact that was sexual in nature."

Other than the "creepy" behavior, witnesses said Ghomeshi's conduct included "yelling, belittling and humiliating" his co-workers, that he was "moody, difficult and emotionally unpredictable," and that he played pranks and "cruel" jokes that made his co-workers feel embarrassed, anxious or upset.

The report found that CBC management and the union failed to address allegations of Ghomeshi's sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a statement Wednesday, CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said, "As we said in April of 2015, the incidents that came to our attention as it relates to Mr. Ghomeshi's conduct in our workplace were simply unacceptable. We apologized then and we do again today."

Jian Ghomeshi's full apology in court Wednesday

I want to apologize to Ms. Borel for my behavior towards her in the workplace. In the last 18 months, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on this incident and the difficulties I caused Ms. Borel, and I have had to come to terms with my own deep regret and embarrassment.

I enjoyed a position of privilege in my job at the CBC as the host of a program I loved. I was a person in a position of authority and leadership, and I did not show the respect that I should have to Ms. Borel. I did not always lead by example and I failed to understand and truly appreciate the impact of my conduct on Ms. Borel's work environment. That conduct in the workplace was sexually inappropriate. I realize that there is no way for me to know the full impact on her personally and professionally.

I now recognize that I crossed boundaries inappropriately. A workplace should not have any sexualized tone. I failed to understand how my words and actions would put a coworker who was younger than me, and in a junior position to mine, in an uncomfortable place. I did not appreciate the damage that I caused, and I recognize that no workplace friendship or creative environment excuses this sort of behaviour, especially when there is a power imbalance as there was with Ms. Borel. This incident was thoughtless and I was insensitive to her perspective and how demeaning my conduct was towards her. I understand this now. This is a challenging business to be in and I did not need to make it more difficult for Ms. Borel. The past 18 months have been an education to me. I have reflected deeply and have been working hard to address the attitudes that led me, at the time, to think that this was acceptable.

I apologize to my family for letting them down and in particular for the impact that all of this has had on my dear mother and my sister. I apologize for the burden my actions have placed on those dear friends who have stood by me throughout this difficult time. I regret my behaviour at work with all my heart and I hope that I can find forgiveness from those for whom my actions took such a toll.

Kathryn Borel's full statement to media Wednesday

As you know, Mr. Ghomeshi initially denied all the charges that were brought against him. But today, as you just heard, Jian Ghomeshi admitted wrongdoing and apologized to me. It's unfortunate, but maybe not surprising, that he chose not to say much about what exactly he was apologizing for. I'm going to provide those details to you now.

Every day over the course of a three-year period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body. He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity. There are at least three documented incidents of physical touching. This includes the one charge he just apologized for, when he came up behind me while I was standing near my desk, put his hands on my hips and rammed his pelvis against my backside over and over simulating sexual intercourse.

Throughout the time I worked with him, he framed his actions with near daily verbal assaults and emotional manipulations. These inferences felt like threats, or declarations, like I deserved to have happening to me what was happening to me. It became very difficult for me to trust what I was feeling.

Up until recently, I didn't even internalize that what he was doing to my body was sexual assault because when I went to the CBC for help, what I received in return was the directive that yes he could do this and yes it was my job to let him. The relentless message to me from my celebrity boss and the national institution we worked for were that his whims were more important than my humanity or my dignity. So I came to accept this, I came to believe that it was his right.

But when I spoke to the police at the end of 2014 and detailed my experiences with Mr. Ghomeshi, they confirmed to me that what he did to me was in fact sexual assault. And that's what Jian Ghomeshi just apologized for: the crime of sexual assault.

This is the story of a man who had immense power over me and my livelihood, admitting that he chronically abused his power and violated me in ways that violate the law. Mr. Ghomeshi's constant workplace abuse of me and my many colleagues and friends has since been corroborated by multiple sources, a CBC Fifth Estate documentary, and a third-party investigation.

In a perfect world, people who commit sexual assault would be convicted for their crimes. Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of having done the things that I've outlined today, so when it was presented to me that the defense would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. The trial would have maintained his lie, the lie that he was not guilty. And it would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.

Jian Ghomeshi has apologized, but only to me. There are 20 other women who have come forward to the media and made serious allegations about his violent behaviour. Women who have come forward to say that he punched and choked and smothered and silenced them. There is no way that I would have come forward if it weren't for their courage, and yet Mr. Ghomeshi hasn't met any of their allegations head on as he vowed to do in his Facebook post of 2014. He hasn't taken the stand on any charge. All he has said about his other accusers is that they're all lying and that he's not guilty. And remember, that's what he said about me.

I think we all want this to be over, but it won't be until he admits to everything that he's done.

Marie Henein's full statement to the court Wednesday

I want to make a few very brief comments because at this stage, 18 months later, I cannot think of much that has not been said about this matter by someone somewhere. But there a few, final things that I would like to say and I think need to be said at this moment.

Let me begin by thanking the Court for accommodating us today and allowing the matter to be brought forward. The conclusion to this matter is entirely appropriate for all the reasons set out by Mr. Callaghan.

The conclusion to this matter today, as your Honour knows, is entirely consistent. It is not an admission or plea. I want to thank Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Klukach. And while prosecutors need not to be thanked for the job that they must do, it would be wrong to not acknowledge that in some cases, this is quite simply more challenging than others. They have done so. I am grateful to Mr. Callaghan and Ms. Klukach for their integrity. They did the right thing.

In the last 25 years in the criminal justice system, I have never seen a case like this one. I have never had a client be the subject of such an unrelenting public scrutiny and focus. I have been witness to it as closely as anyone can be. It is a focus that has not only been on Mr. Ghomeshi but also his family and those that have stood beside him. He has taken this time to reflect in a meaningful and sincere way. His apology demonstrates that.

Throughout this, he has had his liberty restricted. He has been, as your Honour is aware, on bail for 18 months. He has been through one of the most intensely public trials in our history. He has not been allowed to function in the most basic and routine of ways. The last 18 months are one of the most difficult I have witnessed anyone ever having to withstand. I do not think many of us would have been able to do so. But he has. With dignity and the solemnity that is appropriate. He has demonstrated his respect for the judicial system throughout. With this apology, Mr. Ghomeshi has done everything the Crown and Courts have asked him to do.

It is my sincerest hope that with the conclusion of this proceeding, Mr. Ghomeshi can move forward. On a personal level, it is my equally sincere hope that the Canadian public can now move forward. And while this matter has consumed the attention of so many, there are many equally important matters in this country that the public wants to know about and that I hope we can now turn our attention to.

Michael Callaghan's full comments to the court Wednesday:

As your Honour is aware, the Crown and defense have had ongoing resolution discussions. The parties have agreed to a resolution in which Mr. Ghomeshi will:

Enter into a section 810 recognizance for a period of 12 months with conditions, a) not to have communication directly or indirectly with Kathryn Borel and b) not to posses any weapons as defined by the Criminal Code.

The facts in support of the 810 recognizance are as follows.

In early 2007, Kathryn Borel joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as an associate producer for the show "Q" which was hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

On February 7, 2008, Ms. Borel and Mr. Ghomeshi were working late at the office. Ms. Borel was bending over her desk to pick up some papers when Mr. Ghomeshi approached her from behind. He held her waist and pressed his pelvis back and forth, repeatedly into her buttocks. This lasted for several seconds. Both were fully clothed.

This incident on February 7, 2008 comprises the criminal allegation of sexual assault that is before the Court. Sexually inappropriate behaviour on Mr. Ghomeshi's part created an intolerable working environment for Ms. Borel which contributed to her leaving the CBC.

Mr. Ghomeshi will apologize to Ms. Borel in court today. His counsel, Ms. Henein will then file a letter with the court from a therapist outlining the counselling that Mr. Ghomeshi has been engaged in over the past 18 months.

Once that is done, the Crown will ask that the sexual assault information be marked withdrawn at the request of the Crown.

I would like to make a few comments about this resolution Your Honour:

The Crown's position is based on careful consideration of all the relevant factors.

The Crown has considered the nature of the allegations before the Court, the anticipated evidence and the nature of possible defences.

The Crown has consulted with the complainant, Ms. Borel, whose counsel is Ms. Susan Chapman. Ms. Borel supports this resolution. Of course, the resolution of a charge is ultimately the Crown's decision, having regard to all relevant considerations. The complainant's views are not determinative; but they are a very important factor.

Counsel for Mr. Ghomeshi will file with the court a letter confirming that he has undergone counselling over the past two years with a psychotherapist. The letter outlines Mr. Ghomeshi's progress toward acquiring insight into the attitudes which sourced his offensive behaviour. Mr. Ghomeshi's therapist also confirms that his commitment to counselling is ongoing. Mr. Ghomeshi's rehabilitative efforts and commitment to reform are important considerations in support of this resolution.

The resolution provides for a public apology to Ms. Borel and public acknowledgement by Mr. Ghomeshi of the harm he caused to her. The Crown regards Mr. Ghomeshi's apology as a critical component of the resolution:

By apologizing for his actions, Mr. Ghomeshi publicly accepts responsibility for them. Public acknowledgement of the harm done to Ms. Borel is a valuable consequence of this resolution; not only from the perspective of the complainant but, also, from the perspective of the public. This is particularly so, given the unique extent to which this case has attracted public attention.

Mr. Ghomeshi's apology promotes this outcome while avoiding the strain and uncertainty of a trial and its impact on the witnesses.

Mr. Ghomeshi's expression of remorse and acceptance of responsibility also support the opinion of his therapist that he is committed to working on the personal issues which led to the behaviour for which he was charged. Mr. Ghomeshi's apology is demonstrative of his progress and provides assurance that he will not engage in similar conduct in the future. This is a significant consideration in relation to the public interest.

The Crown has also consulted with the police who support this resolution.

The Crown must also be mindful of the personal consequences for Mr. Ghomeshi as a result of being criminally charged.

After careful consideration of all these factors, the Crown is firmly of the view that the public interest is best served through this resolution.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter:@HilaryBeaumont