Peter Nygard’s defence lawyer told court Tuesday his client will testify at his sexual assault trial, offering an “unequivocal and emphatic denial” that he engaged in any sexual misconduct with the five women who have claimed they were assaulted by the one-time Canadian fashion mogul.
Nygard has pleaded not guilty to 5 counts of sexual assault, 1 of forcible confinement
Mark Gollom · CBC News
Peter Nygard will testify at his sexual assault trial, offering an “unequivocal and emphatic denial” that he engaged in any sexual misconduct with the five women who have claimed they were assaulted by the one-time Canadian fashion mogul.
The revelation was made by his defence attorney Brian Greenspan, who provided an opening statement to the jury Tuesday after the Crown closed their case. Although Nygard is under no legal obligation to testify, Greenspan said he would be calling on two witnesses, including his client.
“Peter Nygard has chosen to give up his right to remain silent,” Greenspan said.
Nygard is expected to take the witness box on Tuesday. It will be the first time the jurors hear from Nygard, 82, who has 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 is presiding over the jury trial.
Nygard to give ‘unequivocal and emphatic denial’
Greenspan said the defence would refute the charges against Nygard, despite the passage of time, and make the “incomplete picture more complete.”
The defence will reconstruct the reality of Nygard’s life, both personal and professional, and include Nygard’s “clear and unequivocal and emphatic denial of sexual misconduct with respect to each of the five complainants,” Greenspan said.
The Crown contends that in these five cases — which cover a period from the late 1980s to 2005, and involve women ranging in age from 16 to their late 20s — Nygard used his power and status to lure them to his downtown Toronto office building, located at 1 Niagara Street.
Once there, court has heard Nygard would often provide the women with a tour of the building, which would end in his private bedroom suite that included a giant bed, televisions on walls and a Jacuzzi.
And it’s inside that suite, the Crown alleges — backed by each of the five women who have testified — that Nygard would attack and sexually assault them.
Greenspan said the jury will have an opportunity to assess Nygard’s “testimonial trustworthiness.” He said that his client will testify that when he was interviewed by police in October 2021 and shown pictures of four of the five complainants, he had no recollection of meeting them or having any social interaction with the women.
Nygard, Greenspan said, will attempt to provide insight and facts concerning his business and social life which “contradict the testimony of the four complainants and render their evidence unworthy of your acceptance.”
Greenspan said that Nygard will acknowledge he knows one of the five complainants, who was a regular visitor to his Bahamas estate, but will deny any sexual act with her took place.
Complainant previously testified about assault
Court had previously heard from that complainant, who testified that she had been hired by Nygard to be a hostess for a party at his downtown Toronto headquarters in the mid 1990s. She told the trial that once inside his private bedroom suite, some of the party guests started to undress, and she noticed there was pornography on two of the televisions.
The complainant said she was feeling uncomfortable and had a couple of drinks to calm down, but she blacked out and woke up naked on the bed with Nygard on top of her, pinning her down and assaulting her. The woman testified that the other guests had gathered around the bed to watch.
The complainant also identified a woman who she said was at the party and witnessed Nygard’s alleged attack against her.
That woman identified by the complainant was the first witness Greenspan called. She was also one of Nygard’s ex-girlfriends, and her identity was protected by a publication ban.
She denied she had been at a party in Toronto with the complainant or that she had ever witnessed her being assaulted by Nygard.
Under cross examination by Crown Attorney Neville Golwalla, the ex-girlfriend did acknowledge she had witnessed parties where Nygard had engaged in group sex, including parties at 1 Niagara Street.
She was repeatedly asked by Golwalla whether she had discussed with Nygard if their relationship was exclusive, and whether he told her that he wanted an open relationship to see other women. She said she was having difficulty understanding Golwalla’s questions, and after giving what he suggested were conflicting answers, she said she didn’t remember.
In his opening statement, Greenspan said Nygard will also counter the narrative put forth by the Crown that his private bedroom was some kind of “secretive lair” or “man cave.” Instead, Greenpsan said, it was known as the Finland Suite, publicly displayed in promotional materials and displayed on tours of the building given to clients.
Some of the women also previously told the court that the mirrored door leading into his bedroom had no handle and that Nygard punched in a security code on a pad to unlock it from inside.
WATCH | Crown delivers opening statement in Nygard sex-assault trial:
Peter Nygard used power, status to sexually assault women, court told
Featured VideoArguments have begun in Peter Nygard’s Toronto trial. The former Canadian fashion mogul is accused of using his power and status to lure and sexually assault five women in a private bedroom suite in his downtown Toronto headquarters from 1988 to 2005.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.