WARNING: This story includes graphic details some readers may find disturbing
Two former University of Ottawa hockey players have been found not guilty of sexual assault in a 2014 incident at a Thunder Bay, Ont., hotel room.
Guillaume Donovan and David Foucher had each been charged with one count of sexual assault after a woman accused them of forcing themselves upon her following a Gee-Gees away game against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves in February 2014.
Judge Chantal Brochu delivered her decision in French on Monday afternoon in the Ontario court of justice in Thunder Bay, following a 10-day trial in February.
Donovan and Foucher “certainly didn’t act like gentlemen,” Brochu said, but she had no reason not to believe their testimony.
Incident happened after hockey game
Court heard that the night of Feb. 1, 2014, was a boozy celebration of an overtime win against Lakehead University’s Thunderwolves, with Gee-Gees players passing between adjoining hotel rooms through connecting doors.
The complainant cannot be identified due to a publication ban, which also prevents CBC News from reporting the names of some witnesses and certain details from the trial.
The young woman told court she had met a Gee-Gee player, Donovan’s roommate, on the Thunder Bay trip, through the Tinder dating application, and they had arranged to meet at a local bar during the post-game celebration.
The woman and Donovan’s roommate then returned to his hotel room and began having consensual sex, she said.
The complainant alleged they were interrupted when two of his teammates forced themselves on her in the hotel room. She also described seeing other naked men come into the hotel room.
Both accused denied allegations
When he testified in his defence, Donovan said he had returned to his hotel room that night with the intention of going to bed, but had become aroused when he saw his roommate with the woman in the next bed, and approached them.
He said in his testimony the roommate asked the woman if Donovan could join them and she agreed. In his testimony, Donovan said the woman never resisted, but they didn’t exchange any words that night.
David Foucher denied ever having sexual contact with the woman. He said he was part of a group of Gee-Gees players who entered the hotel room stripped down to their winter boots as a prank.
Complainant lacked credibility, judge says
Court also heard from a friend of the complainant who picked her up from the hotel that night, and later contacted the team’s coach and the University of Ottawa about the incident.
Donovan’s roommate, former Gee-Gees player Mathieu Leduc, and Real Paiement, the former Gee-Gees coach who was fired for his handling of the incident, also testified during the trial.
Brochu said in her judgment that she doubted the complainant’s credibility, in part because several times in the woman’s testimony she denied talking to or texting Donovan’s roommate about the incident after the police investigation began.
The judge said the woman only admitted to the text messages — which even touched on what she would say to police — when she was shown records of those texts obtained in the trial. Those text messages also damaged the credibility of Donovan’s roommate, the judge said.
The complainant also told court she wasn’t completely truthful in each of her four interactions with police, the judge said.
No decision on joining class action: lawyers
Lawyers for Donovan and Foucher said their clients are relieved and feel vindicated by the decision.
“The judge went far in her judgment in saying that she believed the accused, that they were credible when they explained what happened … so that’s the best result we could achieve,” said Donovan’s lawyer Christian Deslauriers.
Foucher’s lawyer Celina Saint-Francois said their clients’ names should be completely cleared.
“What Justice Brochu had specified is that obviously they might not have been on their best behaviour that night, but there was certainly no criminal behaviour,” Saint-Francois said.
Deslauriers noted that the criminal trial, and the University of Ottawa’s decision to cancel the subsequent season after the incident, have led to four years of “missed opportunities” for his client.
“You Google my client’s name and it is probably going to show up forever, so obviously it’s difficult,” he said.
Both lawyers said they are aware of a class-action lawsuit filed by other former players of the University of Ottawa hockey team against the school for cancelling the season, but said their clients have made no decision about whether to join the legal action.