Jian Ghomeshi to plead not guilty to sex assault, choking charges

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi was released on bail today following a court appearance in Toronto to face five criminal charges. He is accused of sexual assault and choking.

Former CBC Radio host must live with mother and stay in Ontario, per bail conditions

RAW: Jian Ghomeshi appears in court

9 years ago
Duration 4:17
It was a chaotic scene outside a Toronto courthouse after former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi made his first court appearance on 5 criminal charges

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi was released on bail today following a court appearance in Toronto to face five criminal charges. He is accused of sexual assault and choking.

A sombre looking Ghomeshi exited the downtown courthouse through a crush of media and police officers after his bail was set at $100,000.

Ghomeshi's lawyer Marie Henein told the gathered reporters that her client would be pleading not guilty and there would be no further statements to the media. "We will address these allegations fully and directly in a courtroom. It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media," she said.

Henein requested a routine publication ban on the bail hearing, which was granted, meaning the allegations and evidence presented during the proceedings cannot be reported.

The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi

CBC insiders tell the story of what really happened.
The fifth estate investigates.
Friday 9 p.m. ET

His bail conditions include living with his mother — who was present in court and acted as his surety — no contact with his alleged victims and an agreement to surrender his passport and remain in Ontario.

When asked by a judge if he understood the conditions of his release, Ghomeshi clasped his hands in front of him, nodded slightly and said "yes" and "I do."

The charges come a month after he was fired by CBC.

Surrendered to police

Ghomeshi, 47, surrendered to police on Wednesday morning and was formally charged under the Criminal Code with four counts of sexual assault and one described by police as "overcome resistance – choking."

None of the charges have been tested in court.

Following his release on bail, he arrived at his mother's house in Thornhill, just north of Toronto, at around 4:20 p.m. Ghomeshi said nothing as he exited the passenger's side of a dark grey SUV and walked down the side of the house.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 8.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said he could not shed any more light on the charges.

"I have no additional information other than what was released by the office this morning," he told reporters. "All matters will be dealt with before the court."

Blair did add that police are encouraging any other victims to come forward

"I want to offer them my assurance that they will be treated with dignity and respect," he said.

The police department's sex crimes unit began investigating Ghomeshi on Oct. 31 after three women filed complaints alleging he was physically violent without their consent. 

I hope that victims' voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed.— Lucy DeCoutere

One of the women who contacted police was actress Lucy DeCoutere, a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force and a star of the long-running TV series Trailer Park Boys.

DeCoutere released a statement on Wednesday, saying: "The past month has seen a major shift in the conversation about violence against women. It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring. I hope that victims' voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed."

Ghomeshi, who hadn't been heard from or seen publicly in weeks, previously issued a statement denying the allegations, and saying all acts involving rough sex were consensual.

In his most recent public statement, shortly after the allegations started coming forward, he said he intended to meet them directly and that he didn't intend to discuss the matter with the media. 

Lawsuit dropped

A CBC spokesman declined to comment on the charges against Ghomeshi.

"We understand that none of the charges involve employees or former employees of CBC, and we won't be commenting about charges that are now before the courts," said Chuck Thompson.

Ghomeshi, centre, is escorted out of court by police amid a crush of media on Wednesday afternoon. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

News of the charges against Ghomeshi came a day after it was revealed a $55-million lawsuit he launched against the CBC last month, after he was fired in late October as host of the radio arts, culture and entertainment program Q, was being dropped. The withdrawal was formalized on Wednesday afternoon. CBC has said Ghomeshi will pay $18,000 in legal costs.

But Ghomeshi is fighting the dismissal through the CBC union, having filed a grievance through the Canadian Media Guild. 

CBC has said it decided to terminate his employment after seeing "graphic evidence" that he had physically injured a woman.

Ghomeshi admitted in a lengthy Facebook post, published on the day he was fired, that he engaged in "rough sex," but insisted his encounters with women were consensual.

Since his dismissal, nine women have come forward with allegations, some dating back a decade, that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them.

CBC has hired employment lawyer Janice Rubin, who is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations against Ghomeshi.

Watch The Unmaking of Jian Ghomeshi on CBC's the fifth estate, Friday at 9 p.m. ET. CBC insiders tell the story of what really happened.

With files from The Canadian Press