TORONTO — “Trailer Park Boys” actress Lucy DeCoutere told Jian Ghomeshi’s sexual assault trial Thursday that the former broadcaster suddenly choked and slapped her while they were kissing at his home, and a year later joined her in a karaoke version of the Britney Spears song “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time.”
DeCoutere is one of three women behind five charges against Ghomeshi — four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. He’s pleaded not guilty.
The Royal Canadian Air Force captain is the second complainant to testify at the 48-year-old’s trial, and positioned herself away from Ghomeshi as she took the witness stand.
DeCoutere — the only woman in the case who has waived her right to a publication ban — said she first met Ghomeshi at a conference in Alberta in the summer of 2003, where they had friendly and slightly flirtatious conversations that ended with Ghomeshi giving her his business card.
The two emailed and phoned each other over the next month until DeCoutere, who lived in Halifax, made a trip to Toronto.
DeCoutere recalled they went out for dinner together — at one point Ghomeshi said he wanted to take her back to his home and “hold” her — and then walked to his house, though, she noted, she had no intention of having sex with him.
Shortly after they arrived, DeCoutere said Ghomeshi suddenly started kissing her, then grabbed her by the throat, pushed her up against a wall and hit her repeatedly across the face with an open hand.
“It just started, there was no buildup,” she said. “He started kissing me quite suddenly, and then it was interrupted when he pushed me up against the wall and the way I remember it, he hit me a couple of times and was looking at me and then he hit me again and then he stopped.”
DeCoutere testified that she did not consent to being choked or slapped, and that Ghomeshi initiated the kissing.
She added that being hit “didn’t feel sexual.”
The entire incident, which lasted about 10 seconds, left her stunned, court heard.
“I remember not being able to breathe shock and surprise,” she said. “I had never had an adult hit me before. We weren’t having an argument. I was just completely bewildered by what happened, therefore I tried to brush it off.”
DeCoutere testified she didn’t leave Ghomeshi’s house right away because she didn’t want to be rude, didn’t want to anger Ghomeshi and “wanted to placate the situation.”
“As I say this now it’s outrageous that I stayed and I didn’t just leave, but that was my reaction,” she said. “I was thinking that maybe this assault was a one-off. I was thinking everyone makes gaffes…I had no framework for where to file it.”
Ghomeshi, meanwhile, didn’t seem to acknowledge the incident.
“It was like nothing happened, which further fed to my interest in downplaying things. It’s like he was opening a can of tuna,” she said.
After sitting in Ghomeshi’s living room while he played his guitar, DeCoutere said she left his home about an hour later.
She testified that the next summer, the pair ran into each other at the same conference they had first met a year earlier.
They went shopping together and then, during a karaoke session, Ghomeshi walked on stage while DeCoutere was singing, grabbed her microphone and made it a duet.
“The song was called ‘(Hit Me) Baby One More Time,”‘ DeCoutere testified. “He took my microphone and that was sort of a weird power play, it felt like.”
She testified that at an earlier encounter at an awards show, Ghomeshi “at a certain point … put his hand on my throat to remind me that he had choked me and I was totally shocked. For me it was an affirmation.”
Ghomeshi, the former host of CBC Radio’s popular culture show “Q,” has betrayed no emotion during his trial, but has closely watched his lawyer as she conducts her cross-examinations. DeCoutere was slated to be cross-examined by Marie Henein later Thursday.
If convicted of sexual assault, Ghomeshi faces a maximum sentence of 18 months behind bars. The choking charge against him, however, carries a potential life sentence.