Edmonton

Former Needle employee speaks of humiliation, ostracism after assault

A former employee of The Needle Vinyl Tavern said it was demeaning, humiliating and damaging when James Leder groped her four times in front of customers and other employees in March 2017. 

Former co-owner James Leder, 39, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in June

Brittany Rudyck, a former employee of The Needle Vinyl Tavern, read her victim impact statement in court on Thursday at the sentencing hearing for James Leder. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC)

A former employee of The Needle Vinyl Tavern said it was demeaning, humiliating and damaging when James Leder groped her four times in front of customers and other employees in March 2017. 

Brittany Rudyck, who had the publication ban on her identity lifted earlier this year, read her victim impact statement at Leder's sentencing hearing in Provincial Court of Alberta on Thursday.

Rudyck read her statement to Judge Larry Anderson, while Leder and about 50 of his friends and family members sat in the packed courtroom. 

Rudyck told the court about the toll the assault had on her life, and how she became ostracized from the Edmonton music scene after going public about her experience. 

Rudyck worked as a social media manager and bartender at the now-closed music venue. 

Leder, a former co-owner of the Needle, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in June.

He admitted in an agreed statement of facts to grabbing Rudyck by the buttocks four times, ignoring her requests to stop.

When a male employee intervened, Leder, who was intoxicated at the time, slapped him in the face, according to the agreed statement of facts.

That prompted staff to kick Leder out of his nightclub. 

Rudyck said Thursday that people put up posters on the street blaming her for The Needle going out of business. She was harassed online by men who blamed her for "ruining the scene," she said.

Rudyck dreamt of one day becoming a music journalist. She no longer writes and avoids live shows.  

She told the court how carefree, open and trusting she was before her assault.

"I grieve for that woman," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. 

She told Leder that she hoped he will learn something from the criminal charge and comes out of the experience a better person. 

'Not a fun moment' 

Outside the courthouse, Rudyck told reporters that the show of support for Leder was not surprising but still shocking.

"It really goes to show how much work we really have to do about treatment of survivors and stigma around victims and survivors of sexual violence," she said. 

"This is not a fun moment. Nobody wants to go to court and share their story again and again and again in a room full of strangers, in a room full of people who vilify you and hate you and think you 'ruined the scene.'"

Crown Prosecutor Breena Smith asked for the judge to impose a "short, sharp" jail sentence of 30 days, as well as programs for alcohol abuse and sex offences, and training on consent in the workplace. 

Smith said the fact that Leder kept groping Rudyck after telling him to stop was an aggravating factor. So was Leder's abuse of his position of trust and authority as Rudyck's employer, she argued. 

Defense lawyer Kent Teskey asked the court to impose a conditional discharge which would prevent Leder from having a criminal record. 

Teskey said this was Leder's first offence. The 50 letters of reference submitted to the court to attest that who Leder was that night "is not the James Leder they know," he added. 

Teskey argued that Leder's behaviour that night was an aberration due to his intoxication rather than representative of his character.

Leder emailed Rudyck an apology the next morning. Teskey said that showing of remorse was "uniquely notable" for how swiftly it came. 

But Smith, the Crown prosecutor, said Leder had no memory of what he did and sent the apology at the behest of one of his employees. 

She said a conditional discharge was not appropriate in this case. 

The judge reserved his decision on sentencing until next month. A date still needs to be determined.