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

One-time Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who was accused of attacking five women in the private bedroom suite of his downtown Toronto office building, was found guilty by a Toronto jury on Sunday of four counts of sexual assault.

Nygard acquitted on 1 count of sexual assault and 1 count of forcible confinement

Peter Nygard leaves court in Toronto on Nov. 12, 2023, after being found guilty of 4 counts of sexual assault.

One-time Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who was accused of attacking five women in the private bedroom suite of his downtown Toronto office building, was found guilty by a Toronto jury on Sunday of four counts of sexual assault.

He was acquitted of one of five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.

Nygard, 82, who wore a black parka in court, didn't appear to show any emotion as the verdict was handed down on the jurors' fifth day of deliberations.

Outside the courthouse, Shannon Moroney, a therapist who worked with four of the five accusers, said she received a message from from one of the women, who said the verdict was not just for her, but that it should be shared with all survivors of sexual assault.

'We did this for everyone'

"We did this for everyone, not only for ourselves," Moroney quoted the woman as saying.

Nygard's defence lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said "the jury has spoken" but he was considering an appeal.

WATCH | Peter Nygard convicted of 4 counts of sexual assault:

Peter Nygard convicted of 4 counts of sexual assault

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Featured VideoOne-time Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was found guilty by a Toronto jury of four counts of sexual assault. Nygard, who was acquitted of one of five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement, also face charges in Quebec, Manitoba and New York.

Greenspan said similar fact evidence is a "significant aspect" in cases such as this and can "dictate the outcome." Similar fact evidence is evidence that may be introduced when the Crown wants to show that a pattern of behaviour might have occurred.

During the trial, many of the accusers described a similar scenario: that they were taken on a tour of Nygard's office building that ended in his private bedroom suite. All five women said they were sexually assaulted in the suite.

Greenspan said the defence will consider "whether or not the issue of similar fact in this case is such that an appeal is warranted."

Greenspan also suggested that the numerous health challenges faced by Nygard — who, for every day of the six-week trial, had been taken into the courtroom in a wheelchair — might play a role in his submissions related to Nygard's sentencing.

'Not an easy case'

Crown Attorney Neville Golwalla also addressed the media, thanking all the women who had come forward and put their trust in the police and the judicial process.

"This is a crime that typically happens in private and profoundly impacts human dignity," Golwalla said. "To stand up and recount those indignities in a public forum such as a courtroom is never easy and takes great courage. Everyone who came forward here is to be commended.

"It was not an easy case. To hear the jury's verdict is to understand that they worked very hard at coming to the result, and certainly we feel that a just result was what the jury came up with at the end."

Meanwhile, Nygard's son, who has previously spoken out against his father, was in the courtroom to watch the verdict.

"I loved my father. It hurts me to see all of these things," Kai Nygard told reporters. "I knew a different man. I got a different version of him and for me, that bond was real, those moments were real."

But he said there was another personality within his father: "Something evil in there, there's something perverse."

5 other charges dropped

Nygard originally faced 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 he attacked, overpowered and sexually assaulted them.

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.

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 and that 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 repeatedly 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.

He contradicted some of the complainants' testimony, arguing, for example, that there was a handle on the 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 argued that it was the five complainants' testimony that lacked credibility.

Greenspan told the jury that they needed 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.

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

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