LAUREN STRAPAGIEL, CANADA.COM
Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi has been released on bail after being charged with four counts of sexual assault.
In addition to the sexual assault charges, Ghomeshi is facing one count of “overcome resistance – choking.” According to Canada’s criminal code, that means he is alleged to have attempted to “render another person insensible, unconscious or incapable of resistance.”
The maximum punishment for the charge is life in prison.
At an afternoon court appearance, a judge ruled that Ghomeshi would be released on bail, set at $100,000. As part of his terms, he will have to surrender his passport and agree to stay in Ontario. He must also live with his mother and may not have contact with any of the alleged victims. Other details of the hearing are protected under a publication ban.
Ghomeshi exited the hearing to a chaotic crush of reporters. In a very brief statement, Ghomeshi’s lawyer Marie Henein said her client will be pleading not guilty.
“It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media,” she said. “We will say whatever we have to say in a court of law. We will not be making any further media statements, nor will Mr. Ghomeshi be making any further media statements.”
His next court appearance will be on Jan. 8.
Toronto Police say they began their investigation on Oct. 31, looking ” into several allegations of sexual assault.” According to police, Ghomeshi surrendered himself to authorities on Wednesday morning.
He arrived at the downtown Toronto courthouse shortly after noon in the back of a police cruiser, his face turned away from members of the media.
Ghomeshi, 47, was fired from Q on CBC radio on Oct. 26 after the broadcaster saw “graphic evidence” of injuries to a woman, the Globe and Mail reported. In the wake of his departure, at least nine women have come forward with allegations that he physically or sexually assaulted them, including lawyer Reva Seth and Canadian actress Lucy DeCoutere.
DeCoutere released a short statement after Ghomeshi’s charges were announced, saying “The past month has seen a major shift in the conversation about violence against women. It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring.
“I hope that victim’s voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed.”
At least three women are known to have taken their allegations to police.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair declined to comment on the charges in a media scrum shortly before noon, saying the matter is now before the courts. CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson told CBC News the broadcaster would not be commenting on the charges, but added the alleged victims do not include any former or current employees.
In a Facebook post published shortly after his firing, Ghomeshi said he’d done nothing wrong and was wrongly dismissed “because of what I do in my private life.” He characterized his sexual encounters as consensual and involving BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) practices. Ghomeshi’s social media accounts have since been deleted, but in his last Facebook post he said he intends “to meet these allegations directly.”
Ghomeshi also filed a $55 million lawsuit against the CBC after his firing, claiming defamation and breach of confidence. The suit has since been withdrawn and Ghomeshi will have to pay $18,000 to cover the broadcaster’s legal costs.