The trial of former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi heard new evidence Wednesday from fourth witness Sarah Dunsworth, who described hearing that an alleged choking incident at Ghomeshi’s home “freaked her out” and “came from out of nowhere.”
Dunsworth is friend of DeCoutere and co-star on the television series Trailer Park Boys. Her identity could not be previously reported as it was covered by a publication ban lifted Wednesday.
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On Tuesday, Justice William B. Horkins ruled he would hear the new evidence from Dunsworth who the Crown argued would corroborate allegations made by Lucy DeCoutere – the only alleged victim who doesn’t fall under the publication ban.
“I think the safest course is to hear the evidence and then I can determine what, if any, probative value it may have,” Horkins told the court.
That evidence was submitted in court Wednesday and included correspondence between Dunsworth and DeCoutere before and after her statement to police in 2014, which the Crown hoped would help verify DeCoutere’s testimony by showing she had confided in her friend after the alleged attack in July 2003.
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“My father asked if my thing with Jian happened before or after our interview with him,” a message from DeCoutere to Dunsworth Oct. 27, 2014 begins the correspondence.
“Before, right?” Dunsworth responded.
“He noticed Jian was…frosty,” DeCoutere then wrote.
“He shouldn’t do stuff if he can’t answer to it,” Dunsworth wrote.
That conversation is in reference to an interview Dunsworth and DeCoutere did in character for an episode of Ghomeshi’s show Q in Halifax, after which DeCoutere said she thought he believed she was “setting him up to take him down” and the interview was “cut short.”
DeCoutere told Dunsworth she would be “stirring the pot” by taking to 广州蒲友 about the allegations, to which Dunsworth responded, “I’ll keep the heat down? I’ll turn it up? I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“OH WAIT I’LL BE YOUR OVEN MITTS THAT”S WHAT I AM.”
DeCoutere then responded that she was “giving people the rope” and that she loved Dunsworth, to which her co-star responded, “don’t give the people sh-t speak your truth and know we all support you.”
DeCoutere then texted Dunsworth on Oct. 29, 2014 to say she would be on CBC’s The Current the following day and that she hoped she didn’t “sound like a f—king moron.”
On Nov. 13, 2014, DeCoutere wrote to Dunsworth and said, “um, guess what? the Toronto cops want your number.”
“Just to corrorborate? [sic]” Dunsworth responded.
“I told them I told you what happened AGES ago,” Decoutere wrote. “It makes me look like i am not a copycat reported [sic].”
‘It’s really not normal.’
Dunsworth’s Nov. 24, 2014 statement to Halifax police for the Toronto police investigation into DeCoutere’s allegations against Ghomeshi was also submitted as evidence Wednesday.
“She doesn’t go out on a lot of dates, and usually if she does go on a date, she will call me afterwards and tell me about it, or if she’s interested in someone, she will talk to me about it,” Dunsworth told police about DeCoutere, adding that she had called her a few days after a date with Ghomeshi where he had allegedly choked and assaulted her.
“She started by laughing and going, ‘Is this normal?’”
Dunsworth said DeCoutere “described an incident in which she had gone to his house, and that he had ended up putting his hands on her neck and choking her.”
She told police that she had said to DeCoutere “No, that’s – it’s really not normal.”
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“And we talked about the fact that they hadn’t discussed it before-hand, or that it wasn’t part of any kind of like, you know, sex play, or anything,” Dunsworth told police. “I mean, I don’t think she really was asking if it was normal, but she was, you know, just reaching out to a girlfriend. … ‘Like this is a weird thing to happen to me.’”
Dunsworth told police the phone call had happened in 2004, a “timing” inconsistency that defence lawyer Marie Henein said was her biggest issue with the statement on Tuesday when the court was weighing the admissibility of Dunsworth’s evidence.
Her police statement also said that DeCoutere was living in Toronto at the time, which was also not accurate, adding that she had told her of the alleged choking incident about a week after she said it occurred.
“The only thing that I remember her telling me, just because it made – you know, it makes an impression when your friend tells you something weird like this – is that she told me she went to his house and that he ended up choking her,” Dunsworth told police. “And she was really not interested in it. … And that it was really weird, and it freaked [DeCoutere] out.”
Dunsworth said in her statement that DeCoutere had told her that she had not slept with Ghomeshi, something Dunsworth said she had specifically asked about.
She told police she then asked DeCoutere, “Oh, where did this come from?” to which DeCoutere responded, “it came from out of nowhere.”
When asked by police if she had any “recent communication” with DeCoutere, Dunsworth responded that they had “talked off and on over the last ten years.”
A ‘really awkward’ interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q
She went on to describe the interview on Ghomeshi’s show Q as “really awkward” and said that she and DeCoutere had spoken to each other about Ghomeshi and the alleged choking incident.
“It’s not like we dwell on it, or talk about it all the time, but if he comes up in conversation – I mean he is a famous guy in Canada, and we listen to his radio show, so if he comes up, you know, we have – we have talked about it,” she said. “Not like a huge issue, but just like it’s a fact of something that happened.”
Dunsworth said she couldn’t recall the exact date of the radio interview with Ghomeshi on Q, but thought that it might have happened in 2006.
When asked by police if she had any “recent communication” with DeCoutere about the alleged choking incident, Dunsworth said she had.
“Umm, well obviously I’ve talked to her because she’s one of my best friends,” she told police. “And I talk to her all the time.”
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Dunsworth added that before DeCoutere went public with her allegations against Ghomeshi to the media and police, she told Dunsworth she was “about to embark on this huge thing. … before she went public, umm, just to even sort of warn me.”
“Umm, she told me that she was going to go – come forward – and that she was doing an interview about – or the incident that had happened with her, and that if she was able to, she was probably going to go press charges,” Dunsworth told police.
“So as soon as I heard about the allegations against Ghomeshi – I was pretty sure they were true because I had had this previous knowledge about him.”
Dunsworth said that after those allegations became public, she and DeCoutere had talked about a day later.
“Umm, he got fired from CBC and we talked about, you know, what it could possibly – be about,” she told police, adding that she and DeCoutere hadn’t “touched on it again” after that.
She added that the alleged incident with Ghomeshi “stood out” in her mind and she “always remembered it” because “it’s a really weird thing to do.”
“Like that is a really weird and abrupt thing for a person to do on a date, especially when they are not, you know – there is no discussion of it,” Dunsworth told police, adding that the alleged incident was a “big event” for DeCoutere.
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Dunsworth said she remembered DeCoutere had mentioned other dates with Ghomeshi, but that all she could remember was “just like the sense that she wasn’t really that into him” and that the alleged choking incident had “kind of sealed the deal” and that DeCoutere described Ghomeshi as “arrogant.”
Dunsworth also said her and DeCoutere had discussed the “bad and weird” date she had gone on with Ghomeshi ahead of their interview on Q, “and that it was going to be awkward to be interviewed by him.”
“It was a very awkward interview. He was obviously like extremely uncomfortable with us being there,” she told police. “He obviously wasn’t interested in interviewing us even slightly. He didn’t want us to be there.”
Ghomeshi’s lawyer Danielle Robitaille had opposed calling the witness, saying the cross-examination of DeCoutere showed her “dishonesty.” Crown lawyer Michael Callaghan argued in favour of the admissibility of the evidence from Dunswoth, adding that it could “rebut” the allegations of “fabrication” in DeCoutere’s testimony.
Robitaille said the proposed witness’ statement “lacks the hallmarks of independence,” which could be interpreted as further alleging collusion between the complainants.
The Crown and Ghomeshi’s defence have stated they are ready to proceed to closing arguments on Thursday, suggesting Ghomeshi will not testify.
Forty-eight-year-old Ghomeshi has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault, and one count of overcome resistance by choking. He acknowledged in 2014 that he engaged in rough sex acts, but said it was consensual.
Ghomeshi will face a second trial in June on a separate charge of sexual assault, which arose from an alleged incident in January 2008 while he was the host of Q.
*With files from Andrew Russell