Onus on accused in #MeToo era, lawyer for acquitted Gee-Gee says

The defence lawyer who represented one of two Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey players acquitted of sexual assault this week says his client may have been exonerated in the courtroom, but not in the court of public opinion.

'It's very easy to throw the stone, but it's very hard to put a shield against this': Christian Deslauriers

Christian Deslauriers, the lawyer who represented former Gee-Gees player Guillaume Donovan, is seen here outside the Thunder Bay Courthouse on Feb. 6, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The defence lawyer who represented one of two Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey players acquitted of sexual assault this week says his client may have been exonerated in the courtroom, but not in the court of public opinion.

Christian Deslauriers represented Guillaume Donovan during the trial in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Donovan and David Foucher had each pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault laid after a February 2014 away game, and on Monday Justice Chantal Brochu acquitted the men, saying they "certainly didn't act like gentlemen," but that she had no reason to disbelieve their testimony that the complainant consented to sex.

Deslauriers told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday that he was "quite frankly not surprised" to hear divided reaction to the verdict, but that "if the public in general was informed of the exact details of this matter, they might not be that surprised at the acquittal.

"What came out at trial was many different versions [of what happened], as expected, plus new versions of the events that came out during [the complainant's] testimony. And that put a lot of doubt on exactly what happened in the bedroom," Deslauriers said.

"And the other thing that you have to know is that the judge decided that she believed the accused when the accused said that the complainant agreed to have a threesome" by saying "OK" when asked, he added.

Former University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey players David Foucher, left, and Guillaume Donovan, right, were both acquitted of sexual assault earlier this week. ( men's hockey roster)

Trial testimony

During the trial, the young woman told court she had met a Gee-Gees player, Donovan's roommate, through an online dating app, and they had arranged to meet at a local bar during the post-game celebration.

The woman and Donovan's roommate then returned to his hotel room and began having consensual sex, she said. The complainant alleged they were interrupted when two of his teammates forced themselves on her in the hotel room. She also described seeing other naked men come into the room.

When he testified in his defence, Donovan said he had returned to his hotel room that night with the intention of going to bed, but had become aroused when he saw his roommate with the woman in the next bed, and approached them.

He said in his testimony the roommate asked the woman if Donovan could join them and she agreed. In his testimony, Donovan said the woman never resisted, but they didn't exchange any words that night.

David Foucher denied ever having sexual contact with the woman. He said he was part of a group of Gee-Gees players who entered the hotel room stripped down to their winter boots as a prank.

'Some unfairness in all this'

"I think in the #MeToo era there is some unfairness in all this, because you cannot defend yourself properly," Deslauriers said. "There's a complainant that says, 'Something happened to me.' And it's legitimate to say something happened to you. On the other hand, the person accused of this allegation cannot defend himself in an open court where the complainant comes, puts her hand on the Bible, and [promises] us the truth ... and believe me, in the next months and years, we're going to see there were some cases where it wasn't true.

"In the #MeToo era it's very easy to throw the stone, but it's very very hard to put a shield against this. Some people would just resign from their jobs without even having a trial or clearing their names."

As for the judge's comments that the two acquitted men weren't acting like gentlemen, Deslauriers asserted that was directed more to Foucher, who entered the hotel room and did "stupid things" like dancing naked on tables and hotel furniture and hiding while the others were having sex.

"Definitely he was exonerated by the court. Was he exonerated in the face of the public? I think it's very difficult in this era of very [intensely covered] cases to clear your name completely," he said of his client.

"Obviously it's very difficult because every time you're gonna type his name on Google, forever, it's gonna pop out."

A class-action lawsuit filed by other former Gee-Gees players after the school cancelled their season is still before the courts, and Deslauriers said his client is considering joining in.

"There was a cost attached to all his defence, and the last four years have been very difficult for him and his family, so I think they're considering this," he said.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, with files from Matthew Kupfer