TORONTO - Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty in his first trial and there will be no second trial.
He was unable, however, to elude a guilty verdict on social media – and was judged guilty even before facing criminal complaints.
The digital lynch mob ravaged the former CBC radio star, disregarding any sense of justice in terms of the expected Canadian credo of innocent until proven guilty.
That standard was thrown out the window in Ghomeshi’s case. And we should all be concerned about preventing it from happening again, from allowing online outrage and emotion to influence actual justice, or to pressure Crowns and police from difficult but reasonable decisions – including decisions not to charge individuals.
Neither has the outrage served the women who made the difficult and brave decision to come forward. Despite concerns about motives and testimony, they too have been victims of unwarranted hate and unhelpful attention in a case that was badly handled from start to finish.
Ghomeshi is expected to speak out in some form Wednesday in what promises to be a packed courtroom at 10 a.m. where sources say a peace bond will be agreed upon to avoid his second trial -- thus meaning the remaining case of sexual assault against him is withdrawn.
Ironically it was on social media that Ghomeshi, the popular host of CBC’s Q, both fueled and predicted the outpouring of online outrage.
When you review his original Facebook statement Oct. 26, 2014, which he wrote more as comment on why he was fired by the CBC, he made all of these points crystal clear.
“The spectre of mud being flung onto the Internet where online outrage can demonize someone before facts can refute false allegations has been what I’ve had to live with,” Ghomeshi wrote himself.
But, as upsetting as the social media “campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization” was to him, it was Ghomeshi himself who set this story, simmering in the background before police became involved, on fire.
“Forgive me if what follows may be shocking to some,” he wrote. “I have always been interested in a variety of activities in the bedroom but I only participate in sexual practices that are mutually agreed upon, consensual and exciting for both partners.”
He described how he and a “jilted” former girlfriend began “engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission.”
Ghomeshi claimed “we discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year.”
It was Ghomeshi’s own statement that opened things up which led to numerous complaints and shocking personal anecdotes which resulted in a Toronto Police investigation and then serious charges in which the allegations were Ghomeshi punched and choked his victims -- much of which was already presented before he had even hired a lawyer and later rejected by a judge.
Ghomeshi, 48, knew by “bringing it to light” people will hear “how I engage in all kinds of unsavoury aggressive acts in the bedroom. And the implication may be made that this happens non-consensually. And that will be a lie. But it will be salacious gossip in a world driven by a hunger for scandal. And there will be those who choose to believe it and to hate me or to laugh at me.”
He warned “there will be an attempt to pile on” and “there will be the claim that there are a few women involved (those who colluded with my ex) in an attempt to show a pattern of behaviour. It will be based in lies but damage will be done. But I am telling you this story in the hopes that the truth will, finally, conquer all.”
In the end, thanks to skilled lawyering by Marie Henein, he did conquer but he was also right when he said the damage is done. One wonders if he taken “the choice” he claims the CBC gave him “to walk away quietly” if we would have ever heard of this case?
What ensued amounted to nothing more than a witch hunt -- similar to what we also saw with former Mayor Rob Ford and Senator Mike Duffy. There was such a frenzy to take these people down that due process was not afforded.
However, in the end. the system in all three got it right. Cases motivated by politics or vengeance are no replacement for a fair process.
No matter how loud social media rages, everybody involved should be allowed to go on with their lives without having the stain of this curb career or personal success.
This case is over and Ghomeshi is not guilty of any of those things said about him. It may, however, be a while (if ever) before vindication comes his way.
That’s what happens when serious criminal complaints are taken, not to the police, but direct to the public through a campaign on social media.