Ottawa police officer pleads not guilty in strip search case
Sgt. Steven Desjourdy charged with sexual assault after 2008 cellblock search
Ottawa police Sgt. Steven Desjourdy pleaded not guilty today to sexual assault in the 2008 cellblock strip search of an Ottawa woman.
Desjourdy, who was charged in March 2011 by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, made an appearance in court Monday. He chose to have his trial — which begins in September — by judge alone.
The case dates back to Sept. 6, 2008, when officers took the woman into custody. A strip search of the woman was captured on surveillance video and then released to the public by a judge.
The video shows the woman being kneed several times, forced to the ground and pinned by four officers before having her bra and shirt cut off with scissors by Desjourdy.
The release of the video ignited a debate about whether the strip search was proper police procedure or sexual assault.
The woman told the CBC's Judy Trinh she is now living in Toronto and is "not looking forward" to the trial.
A publication ban prevents the woman from being identified.
At issue in court on Monday was whether the woman will testify on the stand.
Tim Gleason, the lawyer representing her in a civil lawsuit, said cross-examination can be a difficult experience.
"You can imagine if you're the victim of a sexual assault or an alleged sex assault... the stress of reliving that alone would be very difficult," said Gleason.
Desjourdy, who has been assigned to administrative duties since the SIU investigation began in November 2010, was flanked by lawyers and a handful of police officers.
"We're going to get through this and put our best foot forward and make sure the public sees how difficult it is for police to do their jobs in the first place and have that explained in court," said Matt Skof with the Ottawa Police Association.