Quebec prosecutors have filed rape and assault charges against Canadian entertainment magnate Gilbert Rozon but have set aside allegations of sexual misconduct made by 13 other women.
Mr. Rozon, 64, the founder of the Just for Laughs comedy franchise, faces one count of rape and another of indecent assault in charges filed in court on Wednesday. Both stem from the allegations of a single complainant, and the charges are based on criminal law in 1979, the time of the alleged assaults.
Mr. Rozon issued a brief statement late on Wednesday saying he was aware of the charges against him dating back nearly 40 years and that he would continue to defend himself before the courts. He declined to comment any further.
In the fall of 2017, 10 women came forward in a series of news reports to accuse Mr. Rozon of abuse and, in the end, 14 filed criminal complaints with Montreal police. Many of those women are also pursuing a civil suit against Mr. Rozon. Martine Roy, one of the women who came forward publicly, was disappointed her criminal complaint will not go ahead but expressed some relief on Wednesday that Mr. Rozon will face criminal justice.
“At least they’ve pursued one case. It’s better than nothing,” said Ms. Roy, Mr. Rozon’s former sister-in-law who has accused him of sexual assault. “At least we’ll see him have his day in court.”
Justice officials citing privacy could only offer limited explanations for the lack of charges in the cases of 13 women Wednesday, saying the decision is not a commentary on the truth of their stories but a calculation of the likelihood of successful prosecution.
“I’ve had to make this kind of decision, and it’s a very difficult one for prosecutors. People should not think it is taken lightly,” Justice Minister Sonia LeBel, a former provincial prosecutor, told reporters in Quebec City.
“What I’d like to say to these women is it’s not a value judgment on their stories, but a very specific decision on a specific set of circumstances, to decide if criminal charges can go forward.”
The minister urged women to come forward with any further allegations. “The worst thing is silence,” she said.
The Quebec prosecutions office issued a statement saying “it happens that a prosecutor may believe a victim but arrive at the conclusion that the case does not allow for a demonstration beyond reasonable doubt of guilt, or that the case is more an issue of sexual harassment or misconduct or a civil matter.”
On Monday and Tuesday, the 13 women whose complaints will not go forward were summoned one-by-one to the provincial prosecutors’ office to be told the news and offered an explanation. Many of them emerged upset and angry but did not know charges were coming in one other case. Only Ms. Roy was willing to comment on Tuesday after charges were laid. Some of the other women said they were preparing a full statement for Wednesday.
A group of women who call themselves Les Courageuses have also filed a $10-million civil suit alleging Mr. Rozon sexually abused at least 20 women between 1982 and 2016. A civil suit has a lower burden of proof. While a criminal case requires evidence beyond reasonable doubt of a crime, a civil suit can win on a balance of probabilities.
The women have accused Mr. Rozon of sexual misconduct including unwanted advances in the workplace, groping, exposure and rape.
Mr. Rozon, who has denied the allegations, will appear in court Jan. 22. Mr. Rozon resigned from his post in charge of Just for Laughs shortly after the allegations surfaced and sold the comedy business last spring.
With a report from The Canadian Press