British Columbia

Testimony wraps in Jake Virtanen's sexual assault trial

In questioning from the defence, Virtanen repeated that the complainant was an "active, equal and enthusiastic participant," in the encounter.

In cross-examination Crown counsel suggested Virtanen 'assumed' the woman wanted sex and ignored her rebukes

Jake Virtanen holds up a mobile phone to his ear. He is a white man with slicked-back brown hair, wearing a blue suit.
Former Vancouver Canucks hockey player Jake Virtanen is on trial for sexual assault. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Jake Virtanen was back on the stand Friday, the final day of testimony in his sexual assault trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

The 25-year-old former Vancouver Canuck is charged with one count of sexual assault related to an incident in his hotel room at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017. 

The name of the complainant, identified as MS, is protected by a publication ban. She and Virtanen were the only witness called in the trial.

For a second straight day, Virtanen broke down during questioning from his defence team about how the allegation has affected his hockey career.

Virtanen said he was "speechless" when the Canucks placed him on leave on May 1, 2021.

"Have you played pro hockey since?" asked his lawyer Colleen Elden.

"I had to go to Russia," he answered. 

"Why did you have to go there?" asked Elden. 

"It was the only place where someone would give me a job," he sobbed. 

In a final question from his defence, Virtanen once again told the jury that MS was an "active, equal and enthusiastic participant" in the sexual encounter. 

Crown counsel Alan Ip challenged Virtanen in cross-examination, asking him to explain why he took MS directly to his hotel room at the Westin Bayshore after picking her up the night of the alleged incident. 

MS, who was 18 at the time of the alleged assault, testified she didn't know Virtanen had a room at the Westin Bayshore until right before they arrived at the hotel. She said she didn't know he was taking her to his room because they hadn't talked about it.

Jake Virtanen, middle, is seen after being selected sixth overall by the Vancouver Canucks at the 2014 NHL draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Virtanen said there was never any discussion about doing something else like going for dinner or walking on the seawall.

"It was your idea to go to your room?" asked Ip.

"I just drove back to where we were staying, where the Canucks had us," said Virtanen.

Later Ip asked, "In all of your dealings up to the point of the hotel room door, there was no communication, indication gestures or words from MS that she was interested in engaging in sexual activity with you?"

"No," said Virtanen. 

"You made an assumption," said Ip.

"No," said Virtanen.

MS and Virtanen gave markedly different accounts of how the sexual encounter unfolded. Contrary to testimony by MS, Virtanen said she never told him "no," and she never said she didn't want sex. 

"You ignored her," said Ip. "You told her she didn't have to."

"No," said Virtanen. 

When asked if MS explicitly said "yes" to sex, Virtanen replied, "she said yes through her actions."

'Kind of like the Roxy'

Ip also questioned Virtanen about the night he claims MS first approached him in the Cowboys bar tent at the 2017 Calgary Stampede.

"It's kind of like the Roxy in Vancouver," said Ip, referring to the Granville Street club popular with NHL players. 

"Yes," said Virtanen. 

"It felt like … a fan coming up to me," said Virtanen. "Like she knew who I was already."

"She knew your name?" asked Ip.

"That's just my gut feeling," replied Virtanen.

MS testified she did not know who Virtanen was, what he did for a living or how much money he made when they first met.

Ip later suggested Virtanen's perception of meeting MS was coloured by his hockey fame and "local hero" status as a B.C.-born player drafted by his hometown NHL team. 

"It could be she didn't know anything about you but wanted to get to know you as a person, not a hockey player," asked Ip.

"OK," replied Virtanen.

The trial reconvenes Monday for closing submissions and instructions from presiding Justice Catharine Wedge to the eight-man, four-woman jury. The jury will then begin deliberations until a verdict is reached. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Larsen

@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.

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