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Jian Ghomeshi arrives at a Toronto courthouse with his lawyer Marie Henein for the third day of his trial on Feb. 4. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Jian Ghomeshi arrives at a Toronto courthouse with his lawyer Marie Henein for the third day of his trial on Feb. 4. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Actress testifies Jian Ghomeshi choked, slapped her until she couldn’t breathe Add to ...

Actress Lucy DeCoutere offered testimony on the third day of Jian Ghomeshi’s sexual-assault trial that veered from dramatic to comically surreal, telling the court on Thursday of a dinner date with the former CBC host that turned violent, and an impromptu karaoke duet in which Mr. Ghomeshi seemed to be mocking the assault.

Ms. DeCoutere, the only one of three complainants in the case whose identity is not protected by a publication ban, gave a vivid description of an evening in July, 2003, that began at a fashionable restaurant in Toronto’s Greektown and took a nasty turn when they went to Mr. Ghomeshi’s house, where he slapped and choked her until she could not breathe.

If Ms. DeCoutere sometimes wavered under questions from defence counsel in explaining why she continued to spend time with Mr. Ghomeshi after the assault – an effort, she said, to “normalize a weird situation” – she held her ground better than the first complainant, who withered under cross-examination earlier in the week.

Led through her testimony by assistant Crown attorney Corie Langdon, Ms. DeCoutere said she met Mr. Ghomeshi at a television industry festival in Banff, Alta., in June, 2003, when she was starring in the TV show Trailer Park Boys and he was host of CBC Newsworld’s arts show >play. She recalled Mr. Ghomeshi asked if she was American, because she was not familiar with his work.

The next month, Ms. DeCoutere said she was with Mr. Ghomeshi at his house in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood when “he started kissing me, and then he took me by the throat, pushed me against the wall, cutting off my breath. And he slapped me three times.”

Asked by Ms. Langdon if she had consented, Ms. DeCoutere noted that no discussion about such behaviour had taken place. “It’s impossible to consent to something you’re not asked, so no, I didn’t consent to it.”

After the incident, Ms. DeCoutere said, she did not immediately leave Mr. Ghomeshi’s house, “because I didn’t want to seem rude. Because I’ve got the kind of personality that – if I have negative thoughts about somebody, that makes me so uncomfortable, I will do things to foster kind thoughts. As I say this now, it’s outrageous that I stayed, that I didn’t just leave. But that was my reaction.”

Ms. DeCoutere said she agreed to go ahead with a prearranged date with Mr. Ghomeshi the next day, despite misgivings. “I was thinking that maybe this assault was a one-off,” she explained. “I had to puzzle it out on my own and figure out what happened. That took a while.”

She added that Mr. Ghomeshi acted as if nothing unusual had happened. But in October, 2003, when they saw each other at a party for the TV industry Gemini Awards, she said she had been shocked when he touched her throat, as if to remind her of the incident. They met again at the 2004 Banff conference, where, one night while Ms. DeCoutere was doing karaoke, Mr. Ghomeshi suddenly jumped out of the audience, grabbed the microphone “and turned it into a duet.” The song was Britney Spears’s … Baby One More Time.

She did not report the assault until Mr. Ghomeshi’s firing by CBC in October, 2014, led to media reports that he battered women. As with the first complainant, Ms. DeCoutere said she was shocked to realize “I’m not the only person he did this to.”

Before police issued a call in November of that year for people with information about Mr. Ghomeshi to come forward, “I thought you had to be broken and raped” for an attack to qualify as assault.

In the afternoon cross-examination, defence counsel Marie Henein pushed Ms. DeCoutere on statements she made to media in the fall of 2014 that suggested she relished the attention, and noted Ms. DeCoutere had told a friend she was excited the celebrity Mia Farrow had embraced her efforts to raise awareness of sexual assault. As with the first complainant, Ms. Henein also attempted to chip away at apparent inconsistencies between statements Ms. DeCoutere gave to media, under oath to police and her testimony in court.

Justice William Horkins of the Ontario Court of Justice is hearing the judge-only trial, which continues on Friday.

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Jian Ghomeshi arrives at court for sexual assault trial (The Globe and Mail)

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