Ontario prosecutors dropped two of seven charges of sexual assault against Jian Ghomeshi on Tuesday, as the former CBC Radio host learned he will face two separate trials next year.
Mr. Ghomeshi will go on trial Feb. 1 on four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking; he will face another trial on a single separate count of sexual assault beginning June 6. Pretrial motions will be heard beginning Oct. 1 this year.
Prosecutor Michael Callaghan told Justice Rebecca Rutherford on Tuesday that the Crown was dropping two of the charges of sexual assault because it had "determined there is no reasonable prospect of conviction." He added: "We wish to be abundantly clear, this determination is not a reflection of the truthfulness or credibility of the witnesses, but rather a determination that the specific allegations would not meet the legal burden of proof."
The remaining six charges stem from complaints made by four women. Mr. Callaghan said outside court that the June trial stems from a charge that arose out of "a different factual context" from the other complaints.
The alleged incidents took place between December, 2002, and February, 2008. The dropped charges related to two incidents alleged to have taken place in August, 2002, and May, 2003.
A publication ban is in place on the proceedings, precluding media outlets from disseminating information that could identify the complainants.
Both trials will be heard in the Ontario Court of Justice at Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse, a large venue that will allow many members of the public and media to observe.
Mr. Ghomeshi's defence team elected to have the cases heard by judges rather than go to a jury trial. The move means the complainants will be spared the potentially distressing experience of giving testimony twice: during both the discovery phase of a preliminary inquiry and a final trial. It also means the trial will proceed more quickly.
The president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association suggests the move may hint at the approach Marie Henein, Mr. Ghomeshi's defence counsel, might be expected to take. "I would suspect that she may be seeking to challenge some of the legal issues in the case – where the line on consent and bodily harm is drawn," said Anthony Moustacalis. "That's more of an issue for a judge than a jury." He added that judges also "understand the legal burden of proof against the Crown" in such cases.
He also noted that judges are "better with sensational cases, because they can keep focused on the legal and factual issues."
Mr. Ghomeshi, 47, was fired last October after CBC management became aware of information that led it to believe he had assaulted a woman with whom he had a personal relationship. Within days, numerous women came forward with allegations of either sexual assault or abuse, including a former CBC employee. The public broadcaster hired workplace lawyer Janice Rubin to probe the matter. Her report, issued last month, found Mr. Ghomeshi had "consistently breached the behavioural standard" of CBC by yelling at, belittling, or humiliating co-workers, and engaging in "sexualized conduct and comments."
Ms. Rubin charged that "CBC management condoned his behaviour." She did not address any of the criminal allegations.
The broadcaster parted ways with two of its senior managers in the wake of the report.
Mr. Ghomeshi is grieving, through the CBC's union, to be reinstated. He was replaced last month as the host of CBC Radio's flagship arts and entertainment show, Q, by the rapper Shad.
Mr. Ghomeshi remains free on $100,000 bail, and is subject to certain conditions. None of the allegations has been proved in court.