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A compilation image of Alex Formenton, Cal Foote, Michael McLeod, Dillon Dube, and Carter Hart.Matt Slocum, Noah K. Murray, Paul Sancya, Corey Sipkin/The Canadian Press

The five former members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team who have been charged with sexual assault have elected to face a trial by jury.

The players’ request for a jury trial was approved at a court appearance in London, Ont., Tuesday. All five men, who are current or former NHL players, will be tried together as a group. It will likely be several more months before a trial date is scheduled.

“Earlier this week, all five players selected a trial by jury and they are confident that jurors drawn from the community will decide this case fairly and impartially after hearing all the evidence and testimony,” the accused players’ defence lawyers said in a joint statement released Wednesday.

It’s been a month since police charged Michael McLeod, Dillon Dubé, Carter Hart, Cal Foote and Alex Formenton with sexual assault in connection to an alleged group attack on a woman in a hotel in the early morning hours of June 19, 2018. Mr. McLeod faces a second charge of sexual assault for being a party to the alleged offence. Each man has denied the accusations and promised a vigorous defence in court.

Shortly after the players were formally charged, London police Chief Thai Truong publicly apologized to the woman at the centre of the case – who in court documents is identified as E.M. – for the amount of time it has taken to resolve the investigation.

Timeline of key events in the Hockey Canada case

“I want to extend, on behalf of the London Police Service, my sincerest apology to the victim, to her family, for the amount of time that it has taken to reach this point,” he said at a news conference in London earlier this month. “As a police officer working in this space for many, many years, I can tell you that this is a difficult, difficult situation for all victims and survivors of sexual violence.”

E.M. reported the incident to police at the time of the alleged attack, saying she had met some of the players at a bar in downtown London. The players were in town for a Hockey Canada fundraising gala, in which the 2018 junior team was honoured for their gold-medal win at the world junior championships several months earlier. E.M. told police that after a night of drinking and dancing, she left the bar with one of the players and had consensual sex with him at his hotel.

But afterwards, E.M. told police that without her knowledge, that player texted other members of the team and invited them to the room. She alleges she was sexually assaulted and humiliated over a period of several hours.

This initial London police investigation was closed without charges in February, 2019. It only became public three years later, after TSN reported that E.M. had settled a $3.55-million lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and eight unnamed players for an undisclosed amount. Amid intense public scrutiny, London police reopened their investigation.

London police have refused to provide any details about the alleged assault. What’s known about the incident comes from two documents: E.M.’s lawsuit and a 94-page court filing from police, which officers submitted to secure judicial approval for a series of investigative measures, including warrants and production orders. Neither document has been tested in court.

While E.M.’s statement of claim alleges she was assaulted by eight players, the London police filing focuses on five players.

At the London police news conference, the investigation’s supervisor, Detective Sergeant Katherine Dann, said based on the evidence, they only had “reasonable grounds” to believe an offence was committed by five players.

In January, all five men, who became professional hockey players, went on leaves from their respective teams after they were ordered to surrender to police.

Mr. Dubé had been playing for the Calgary Flames, Mr. Hart for the Philadelphia Flyers, and Mr. McLeod and Mr. Foote were playing for the New Jersey Devils. Mr. Formenton, who previously played with the Ottawa Senators, was playing for the Swiss club, HC Ambri-Piotta.

The case is back in court March 5, although none of the players is expected to attend. At this stage, the appearances are dealing with procedural matters, such as trial scheduling. Because the case is going to a jury, it is now being dealt with in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice rather than Provincial Court.

Daniel Brown, Julianna Greenspan, David Humphrey, Megan Savard and Louis Strezos are some of the defence lawyers involved in the case.

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