Ghomeshi has two sides to him, first witness testifies

Feb 1, 2016 | News

Veronica Appia and Natalia Vega
with video by Ryan Durgy and Katie Jones

One minute Jian Ghomeshi was sweet and humble and the next minute he was physically abusive, the first witness told the court on Monday, on the first day of Ghomeshi’s sexual assault trial.

The witness testified the “sudden switch” in behavior came out of nowhere and what she believed was a flirtatious encounter turned into a violent one.

Ghomeshi, a former high profile CBC radio host, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking.  He’s being tried by Judge William Horkins, without a jury.

The “Disney Car”

The complainant described a night that ended with kissing in the front seat of Ghomeshi’s “Disney car” – a bright yellow Beetle – that suddenly turned into non-consensual hair pulling.

The witness told the court she first met Ghomeshi at a Christmas party she was working at as a server in 2002.

She told the court the pair flirted with one another, which resulted in Ghomeshi inviting her to a taping of >play at CBC – an invitation she said she willingly accepted.

The night of the taping the witness described Ghomeshi’s eyes as “lighting up” when he saw her and the overall vibe of the night to be “good,” until the hair-pulling encounter.

The complainant told the court Ghomeshi had reached around to grab her hair, pulling her back.

“I wasn’t sure what just happened,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to do or say.”

After that incident she said the two remained in the car talking but she said she was confused by the switch in his demeanor.

“It felt almost like a rage that wasn’t there the second before he did it,” she told the court.

The witness said despite the confusion she experienced on their first encounter she agreed to go out with him after another taping of >play.

“He threw me out like trash”  Complainant

She said the encounter ended with her taking a taxi, while sobbing in the backseat.

The witness told the court she went to Ghomeshi’s house that night and the pair ended up kissing on his couch. After getting up to look around his house, she said Ghomeshi ended up behind her and grabbed her hair “harder than the first time,” pulled her down and punched her in the head “multiple times.”

“I felt like I was going to faint,” she said.

She told the court she started to cry and Ghomeshi’s reaction was to call her a cab and retreat to another room.

“He threw me out like trash,” she said.

The defence goes on the offensive.

After Crown attorney Mike Callaghan completed his examination, Ghomeshi’s lawyer Marie Henein cross-examined the witness by comparing her police statement and two interviews from 2014 to her testimony in court.

In interviews with CBC’s The National and As It Happens in October 2014, the witness stated that she was not intimate with Ghomeshi during their encounter in his car – a statement she testified in court was incorrect.

“I was focusing on the main parts,” she told the court while recalling her thought process.

The complainant testified that she also made mistakes in her initial statement and follow-up e-mails to police.

She said that following her statement on Nov. 1, 2014 in an e-mail to police she stated that she remembered wearing clip-in hair extensions at the time of the first incident. In court, she stated that this was also incorrect.

Later Henein questioned another e-mail conversation the woman had with police where she had a recollection of her banging her head on the window during the incident with Ghomeshi in his car.

After several exchanges between the witness and Henein, the witness told the court she did not hit her head against the window but had come close to doing so.

In another examination of the witness’s testimony, Henein clarified that Ghomeshi did not own a Volkswagen Beetle, as stated by the witness in court, during the times the alleged sexual assaults took place.

The witness then told the court it was a possibility that she had mistaken the make of the vehicle.

“If he didn’t own it then, I was mistaken. I’m not a connoisseur of cars,” she said.

The trial will continue on Tuesday at Old City Hall.