TORONTO — A criminal charge against a former Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio host was dropped Wednesday after he reached an agreement with prosecutors that included an apology for thrusting his hip into a former colleague’s backside.
Jian Ghomeshi, the former host of “Q,” a popular radio show on culture heard in Canada and many U.S. public stations, was cleared criminally again two months after he was acquitted of sexual assault charges involving three other women.
Police launched an investigation in 2014 after more than 12 women contacted various media sources to allege that Ghomeshi had assaulted them. The allegations rocked Canada’s vaunted public broadcaster and sparked a heated nationwide conversation about consent and sexual harassment.
His previous acquittal in March sparked raucous protests from women activists decrying how the justice system treats sexual assault complainants.
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Ghomeshi, who first gained fame as a member of the 1990s satirical pop band Moxy Fruvous, apologized Wednesday for being “sexually inappropriate” against ex-co-worker Kathryn Borel who had accused him of sexually assaulting her.
“I now recognize that I crossed boundaries inappropriately,” Ghomeshi said, speaking in the court for the first time since entering a not guilty plea. “I didn’t appreciate the damage that I caused … the incident was thoughtless and I was insensitive to her perspective and how demeaning my conduct was towards her.”
Borel said outside court that Ghomeshi’s apology was an admission of guilt even though it won’t lead to a criminal conviction. She said it was unfortunate, but not surprising, that Ghomeshi chose not to say much about what exactly he was apologizing for and noted that he made it clear to her that he could do what he wanted to her body.
“He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity,” Borel said, noting there were at least three documented incidents of physical touching.
“This includes the one charge he just apologized for, when he came up behind me while I was standing by my desk, put his hands on my hips, and rammed his pelvis against my backside over and over, simulating sexual intercourse.”
Borel said she went to the CBC for help, but said what she received in return was a directive that yes, he could do this, and yes, it was her job to let him.
“The relentless message to me, from my celebrity boss and from the national institution we worked for was that his whims were more important than my human dignity,” she said.
It wasn’t until she spoke to police in late 2014 that she said she realized it was sexual assault.
“Jian Ghomeshi has apologized but only to me. There are 20 other women who have come forward to the media and made serious allegations about his violent behavior, women who said he choked and punched and smothered them,” she said. “All he has said his other accusers is that they are all lying and that he’s not guilty. And remember that’s what he said about me.”
The CBC fired Ghomeshi in 2014 and a CBC spokesman said Wednesday they stand by the decision. A judge acquitted Ghomeshi on the previous charges in March, saying it was difficult to have trust in witnesses who selectively or deliberately suppress information. He said the three women were less than fully frank and forthcoming in their testimony.
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in a statement that what Borel experienced should never have happened. He said the CBC has since made progress in handling harassment complaints.
“The incidents that came to our attention as it relates to Mr. Ghomeshi’s conduct in our workplace were simply unacceptable. We apologized then and we do again today,” Thompson said.