Canada

Former fashion mogul Peter Nygard found guilty of 4 counts of sexual assault

One-time Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been found guilty of four counts of sex assault.

The jury in Toronto on Sunday also acquitted him of one of five counts of sexual assault and one of forcible confinement.

More to come.

A previous version of the story is below

A jury has reached a verdict in the sexual assault case against Peter Nygard, the one-time Canadian fashion mogul who is accused of attacking five women in his private bedroom suite of his Toronto downtown office building.

The jury is expected to return to court shortly with its verdict.  

Nygard, 82, had pleaded not guilty in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement. Justice Robert Goldstein presided over the jury trial.

Nygard had originally been facing eight charges of sexual assault and three charges of forcible confinement in the Toronto case, but five of those charges were dropped as jury selection was set to begin.

During the six-week trial, court heard graphic and disturbing testimony from all five complainants, four who said they were in their 20s when they claim they were assaulted, and one who said she was 16 when she alleges she was attacked by Nygard.

The women testified that from a period of the late 1980s to around 2005, each ended up in Nygard’s private bedroom suite in his downtown Toronto building where they say they were attacked, overpowered and sexually assaulted by him. 

The Crown argued that Nygard had used his wealth and power to lure in some of the women which would often result in a tour of his Toronto office building, and end up in his private bedroom suite.

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Court heard from some of the women that there was a mirrored door leading into his bedroom, that it had no handle on the inside and that two of the doors leading to the outside of his bedroom either needed to be unlocked and opened by pressing a button inside, or by punching a security code.

Two of the women told court that they also felt trapped inside that room, that they felt there was no way out. One woman told court that she repeatedly begged Nygard to let her out and that he eventually relented. It was that allegation that led to the forcible confinement charge.

Nygard testified in his defence

Nygard testified in his defence, appearing in the witness box for five days. He testified that he couldn’t recall four of the five women, nor remember having any interaction with them. But he also insisted and repeated that any of the allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault attributed to him could not have happened because he would never engage in such behaviour.

Nygard, clockwise from bottom left, Justice Robert Goldstein, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, the jury, and Crown Attorneys Ana Serban and Neville Golwalla appear in court during closing submissions on Tuesday. (Alexandra Newbould/The Canadian Press)

He contradicted some of the complainants’ testimony, arguing for example, that there was a handle on that inside door of his private bedroom and denying that there was any way to get locked or trapped inside.

In her closing submission, Crown Attorney Ana Serban argued that Nygard’s testimony was riddled with inconsistencies, was unreliable, lacked credibility and should be rejected.

That was in contrast, she said, to the testimony from the five complainants. The similarities of their independent testimony defied coincidence, she said, and proved Nygard’s guilt.

But Nygard’s lawyer Brian Greenspan argued that it was the five complainants’ testimony that lacked credibility. 

He told the jury that they need to carefully consider all the evidence presented by the Crown and reflect on the “fatal flaws and lack of testimonial trustworthiness” of the five women.

The upper part of a glass and brick building is shown against a cloudy sky.
The former headquarters of Nygard’s now-defunct clothing company at 1 Niagara St., in Toronto, is pictured on Sept. 28, 2023. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Greenspan suggested that despite Nygard’s inability to recollect the women, some of the details they testified to in court could have happened. For example he said some of their evidence about how they initially met Nygard on flights could be possible.

But other details court heard were either unlikely, impossible, absurd or pure nonsense, Greenspan said.

“What never occurred were the sexual assaults described by each of the complainants,” he said.

Nygard facing other charges, civil lawsuit

Greenspan also suggested that some of the women had been motivated to testify against Nygard because they had joined a U.S. class-action lawsuit against him. That lawsuit, which is currently on hold after a New York judge placed a stay of proceedings on it, involves 57 women. Their allegations date back as far as 1977, with some of them alleging they were assaulted when they were as young as 14 or 15.

Nygard also faces one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in Manitoba, for offences that were allegedly committed in November 1993 and involve a victim who was then 20 years old. 

He also faces one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in connection with incidents that allegedly took place in Quebec between Nov. 1, 1997, and Nov. 15, 1998, and involve one alleged victim.

Meanwhile, Nygard is also fighting extradition to the U.S. where he faces charges in New York for nine offences which  include conspiracy to commit racketeering, transportation of a minor for purpose of prostitution, and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.

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