How a podcast on Halifax's 'Glove Guy' led to an intellectual property dispute
'The more I learned, it just got more and more disturbing'
In the beginning, Jordan Bonaparte couldn't believe what he heard.
There were stories though, too many to ignore. They were all about a man many called "The Glove Guy," and the tales often followed a similar trajectory: a man in a car would pick up young men in Halifax's downtown core — promising a free ride home — and then pressure his passenger into trying on a series of tight leather gloves as they wound through the streets, sometimes in the wrong direction.
The driver would assure the men it was all a part of a legitimate glove-sales business, but some described a situation that became increasingly uncomfortable and — in at least one case — resulted in police charges.
"When I first heard the story, this was probably six or eight years ago or something. I just assumed it was like an urban legend," said Bonaparte.
Bonaparte, creator of Canadian true-crime series The Nighttime Podcast, said he then saw a deluge of similar posts about the Glove Guy last year on r/Halifax, a Reddit forum page dedicated to the city.
The discussion of Glove Guy remains the page's all-time most popular topic, and includes various claims from men who say they, or their friends, have been picked up and offered gloves in similar strange encounters.
"That's when I realized that that's not a crazy story," Bonaparte said. "There's way too many people giving the same version of it."
A few months after that, Bonaparte put out a public request for more stories, and says he soon heard from "probably 200" people. They all claimed to have first- or second-hand stories about the Glove Guy, that ran the gamut from seemingly funny encounters, to unsettling ones.
Surprisingly, Bonaparte said, many people who knew of the story but didn't have a first-hand experience viewed it as a humorous event, instead of a serious one. Even some who had been in the car, on the surface, seemed to view it as a joke.
"They almost have like a sort of like dark or gallows humour about the whole thing, where they're kind of laughing it off as this kind of strange weird experience that's kind of funny," Bonaparte said.
"But at the same time, I can tell they're bothered by it."
I went into this series thinking it's a kind of quirky, funny story, but ... the more I learned, it just got more and more disturbing.- Jordan Bonaparte
Bonaparte eventually produced a two-part series, interviewing four men, and published them via his podcast.
Bonaparte did not identify the so-called Glove Guy, but the man frequently gave out a card for his glove business to his passengers.
CBC News reached out to the owner of the glove business, and got an emailed statement from a man named Murray James.
James denies any allegations of inappropriate behaviour, but does acknowledge he has occasionally offered rides in downtown Halifax "between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m."
However he says he has never pushed anyone to try on his gloves. James said in his email that rumours about him and his glove business, spread by Bonaparte and others, have been "totally overblown for years," have damaged his reputation, and put him in danger.
His gloves, he wrote, are tight due to the make and style, and people misconstrue his intentions due to the fact that he is "so passionate when it comes to [his] gloves."
"[I am] currently living at home as a full-time caregiver for my mom that is 87 with failing health," James, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wrote in his statement.
"To continue to see outlets and people continuing to say things about me is very stressful!"
Still, he wrote, the rumours haven't stopped, and — after hearing Bonaparte's podcast — he said in his email to CBC that he registered "The Nighttime Podcast" as his own business with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies (NS RJSC), which is responsible for maintaining records of businesses and non-profit organizations operating in the province.
He also registered a similar website name to Bonaparte's existing site and created an accompanying Facebook page.
Bonaparte believes the registrations were done to "squat on [his] work" as a form of retaliation for his podcast.
'Soon as I mentioned the Glove Guy, she knew exactly what I was going to say'
Shawn DeWolfe of Dartmouth, N.S., is one of the men James picked up late at night in downtown Halifax.
DeWolfe told CBC News in an interview that James, unprompted, offered him a ride on Spring Garden Road. Being drunk at the time, he says he accepted, since he was worried he otherwise wouldn't get home.
As the ride continued, DeWolfe says he grew more and more uncomfortable with James, who had him try on three pairs of leather gloves, each exceedingly tight. When they arrived outside of his house, DeWolfe says James had him try on a final pair. It was at this point DeWolfe looked over, and saw James was masturbating in the seat beside him.
"I took the gloves off, threw them, got out of the car as fast as I [could]," DeWolfe said. "And I ran through my neighbour's yard, and I cut back to my house."
"She told me about her friend who had the same experience basically. Soon as I mentioned the Glove Guy, she knew exactly what I was going to say, who I was talking about."
DeWolfe says the fact that the first person he told already knew similar stories, made him sure others had experienced something similar to him.
CBC News also spoke with two other men who also say they were given a drive by James, and both took place after DeWolfe's experience. Neither claim to have been assaulted, but both state they were picked up while drunk, and pressured into trying on leather gloves in a way that made them uncomfortable.
James told CBC News he pleaded guilty to a charge of committing an indecent act only to avoid a more serious charge that would have carried time behind bars, and that he never exposed himself in the car.
DeWolfe maintains James did expose himself. He also believes that the general response to the Glove Guy stories — which, online, go back at least five years — hasn't been serious enough.
"You just think it's funny," DeWolfe said of the majority of responses online.
"[But] for other men who had more serious encounters, I just believe that they're too embarrassed or too afraid to maybe even come out and talk because they're afraid that what other people might think of them."
Robert Wright, a sociologist and social worker in Halifax, said he's unsurprised these stories have been circulated for so long and viewed as humorous anecdotes instead of something more serious.
Wright runs a confidential support group for men who have been sexually abused. He said experiences involving sexual assault of men are often laughed off when they are brought up. Wright said making light of these kinds of incidents can be a coping mechanism or an attempt to "minimize the experience."
Only six percent of all sexual assaults are reported to police, he added.
"What percentage of those do you think are male assault? Probably five or 10, maybe 15 per cent, maybe less. So five per cent of the six per cent of the assaults — you're talking about a very, very small number of assaults of men are ever reported to authorities."
Wright said that while making someone uncomfortable isn't illegal, it is a warning sign and should be addressed.
"Even before it crosses a legal threshold, we should let the authorities know that there is a person driving around inviting young men into their car, providing them rides, and beginning to make those men sexually uncomfortable."
Const. John MacLeod of the Halifax Regional Police confirmed they have "received reports and information regarding a man offering rides to male pedestrians and asking them to try on gloves after they entered the vehicle."
But James has otherwise never faced any charges beyond DeWolfe's case.
A disputed registration
James wrote to CBC News that "lies" like those broadcast on Bonaparte's podcast have followed him since shortly after opening his glove business 14 years ago.
James stated the stories started after a few local men chose to target him due to the fact that he is a gay man. These men would throw food and drinks at him from their cars, he said. They began spreading false rumours about him online after he went to the RCMP and had three of them arrested, James told CBC News in an email.
James claims the rides he offers are given in good faith, and any accusation of improper behaviour is either misconstrued or a lie. Because of the rumours surrounding him, he says he has had to stop offering rides, and temporarily shut down his glove business.
In addition, James stated that since Bonaparte hadn't already done it himself, he was able to register the Nighttime Podcast name as his own.
"That someone like me would buy such a name, just makes him overcome with anger," James wrote in a Facebook post, echoing similar statements in his email to CBC.
There, he stated that Bonaparte's "lies" threatened his safety, and drove him to fight back.
"I NOW LEGALLY own this name 'The Nighttime Podcast!'"
All businesses in Nova Scotia are required to register with the Registry of Joint Stocks, other than those who operate under the personal name of the owner, or are in specific fields such as farming and fishing. At the same time, no two businesses may register with the same — or nearly the same — name.
I find that really troubling, that a government search for a business name ... doesn't include something as simple as a Google search.- Jordan Bonaparte
While Bonaparte does hold a trademark for "Nighttime Podcast" — filed July 4 of this year — he states it never functioned as a business of its own. Instead, he says his business operates under his personal name, with The Nighttime Podcast functioning as a product.
He also says he's worried about how easily the name was taken in the first place.
Applicants at the NS RJSC are able to use an online portal to register their business names, which are then vetted before being approved. What Bonaparte says upsets him though, is the registry seemingly only checks their own files to make sure a name hasn't already been registered, instead of requiring documentation to prove the applicant's ownership of the business in question.
"I find that really troubling, that a government search for a business name basically seems to include only a search of their own registry," Bonaparte said.
"And it doesn't include something as simple as a Google search or something to see if there maybe is someone using that intellectual property."
When asked what penalties can follow a false registration, media relations advisor Marla MacInnis simply responded that "fraud is illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada," and that all allegations "should be reported to law enforcement."