Manitoba

Nygard lawyer Jay Prober fined, reprimanded over comments about alleged victims

The Law Society of Manitoba has reprimanded Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober and slapped him with a $4,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for comments he made in the media about women who accused his client Peter Nygard of sexual assault.

Law Society of Manitoba says reprimand will follow Jay Prober through the rest of his career

Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober is shown in a June 2020 file photo. He pleaded guilty to one count of professional misconduct on Monday. (CBC)

The Law Society of Manitoba has reprimanded Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober and slapped him with a $4,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for comments he made in the media about women who accused his client Peter Nygard of sexual assault.

Prober, 79, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to be courteous and civil with all people with whom he had professional interactions in a Monday hearing with the law society, after he told members of the media several times in 2020 that women who accused Nygard of sexual assault were liars who were "on the money train."

Prober said in the virtual hearing that his comments were made when his client was being "brutalized" in the court of public opinion.

"I made some harsh comments, comments that were harmful and hurtful, and I recognize that. I truly regret any harm and any hurt that my comments caused to anyone," he said.

Prober was initially also charged with a count of prejudicing a tribunal, but that was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to the other count.

Former fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown in Toronto in a courtroom sketch from Jan. 19. Prober says his client was 'brutalized' in the court of public opinion before Prober made 'harsh' comments regarding Nygard's accusers. (Alexandra Newbould/The Canadian Press)

Richard Wolson, Prober's lawyer, and Law Society counsel Ayli Klein made a joint proposal that Prober receive a reprimand and be fined $4,000 toward the cost of the prosecution of his misconduct hearing.

A reprimand is "very serious," Klein said in the hearing.

It's a formal and public sanction by the lawyer's peers and a "permanent blemish" on their record, Klein said.

Wolson said the joint plea bargain is "fair, balanced and with precedent."

The joint proposal was accepted by the disciplinary panel.

"These were very serious, troubling comments," said Kathy Bueti, one of the members of the disciplinary panel, in her oral reasons on Monday.

"Lawyers are held accountable for both what they say in and out of the courtroom. We recognize sometimes there may be media involvement … but it doesn't decrease the standards and the expectations."

Bueti said the punishment will follow Prober throughout the rest of his career.

A written decision will be made public on the law society's website in the next 60 to 90 days, she said.

'Added insult to injury'

KC Allan, a former model who grew up in Winnipeg and now lives in the U.S.,  filed a complaint against Prober with the law society in October 2020.

She has accused Nygard of raping her at his Winnipeg warehouse when she was 17, after they met at a nightclub and he offered her a ride home.

Allan said in her victim impact statement on Monday that there has been "no meaningful apology" for the harm done to her and other people who say they were victimized by Nygard.

After the hearing, she reiterated that feeling.

"To this day, I don't think he's being authentic. I think he's just regretful he got caught," Allan said.

Shannon Moroney, a therapist and an advocate for survivors, said Prober's words were deeply harmful.

Moroney said in a statement read at the hearing that instead of helping the women heal from sexual assault, forcible confinement and trafficking, she had to help them "heal from the harm of Mr. Prober's words and allegations against them, which literally added insult to injury."

Manitoba Liberals call for public inquiry

Later in the day, Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont stood up in question period to call for a public inquiry into the handling of the Nygard case by Winnipeg Police and Manitoba Justice, and any impact Prober's words may have had on the investigations.

"One of the places survivors have no chance for criminal justice is Manitoba, where [Nygard] got a start after over 40 years of allegations of violent crime often swept under the carpet," Lamont said.

He said he asked for the public inquiry on behalf of more than 40 survivors.

In Manitoba, the justice department didn't lay charges against Nygard, even though more than 20 people came forward with allegations.

Lamont believes Prober's words made it even more challenging for women to accuse the disgraced clothing manufacturer.

"Women were being punished for coming forward, sending a clear message to anyone who might want justice that survivors are the ones to be put on trial so Peter Nygard won't be, and in Manitoba it worked," he said.

Deputy Premier Cliff Cullen responded in question period, saying the government won't interfere in the judicial process because there are cases against Nygard before the courts in other cities.

Nygard lawyer Jay Prober fined, reprimanded over comments about alleged victims

2 months ago
Duration 2:07
The Law Society of Manitoba has reprimanded Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober and slapped him with a $4,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for comments he made in the media about women who accused his client Peter Nygard of sexual assault.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

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