Trial begins for Canada radio host Jian Ghomeshi charged with sexual assaults

Former celebrity radio host Jian Ghomeshi arrives for his first day of court in Toronto on Monday.
Former celebrity radio host Jian Ghomeshi arrives for his first day of court in Toronto on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - The trial of syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi on charges of beating three women during sex began Monday in a packed Toronto courtroom.

A crush of journalists and spectators met the accused as he arrived in the morning for the proceedings, flanked by defence lawyers and ringed by police officers.

Ghomeshi, 48, faces four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. Other charges were withdrawn for lack of evidence.

If convicted, he may be sent to prison for life.

The charges were laid in November 2014 after at least a dozen women came forward with accusations Ghomeshi strangled them, punched them or slammed them against walls.

Three of them became plaintiffs in the criminal case, including Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere.

DeCoutere told local media she was assaulted while on a date with Ghomeshi in 2003. She recounted that they had shared a kiss before he suddenly became violent, grabbing her by the throat, pressing her up against a wall, and slapping and chocking her.

Ghomeshi has argued that his acts were consensual rough sex of the kind found in erotic novels such as the best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Legal pundits said the trial by judge will revolve around consent.

Before he was fired by Canadian public broadcaster CBC over the scandal, Ghomeshi's top-rated arts magazine radio show Q was heard across Canada and in more than 180 cities in the United States.

It remains on air with a new host, hip-hop artist Shad, and has been rebranded as q.