Eric Salvail sex assault trial: Lawyer for former TV star says accuser 'not credible'

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MONTREAL — The accusations against former Quebec television star Eric Salvail are baseless, defence lawyer Michel Massicotte said Wednesday, adding that the accuser is capable of lying, spreading falsehoods and even perjury.

"His testimony is not credible and can't be retained," Massicotte said in his closing arguments before Quebec court Judge Alexandre Dalmau, referring to the complainant, Donald Duguay. "Therefore, my client must benefit from reasonable doubt."

Massicotte said Duguay had "narcissistic traits" and that his claims were "purely invented."

Salvail, 51, is on trial for sexual assault, harassment and unlawful confinement in connection with events alleged to have occurred between April and October 1993 involving former co-worker Duguay.

Duguay accused Salvail of months of unwanted advances and harassment. He also said the ex-host confined him in a bathroom at Radio-Canada and assaulted him. Duguay filed a complaint against Salvail in 2017 and asked to be identified publicly.

The one-time Quebec television host testified in his defence during the trial, denying the allegations and telling the court Duguay's accusations were "bizarre."

On Wednesday, Massicotte attacked Duguay's testimony by claiming it was exaggerated and filled with additions that the accuser hadn't previously disclosed. The lawyer said the complainant's version never happened, therefore it was normal, he said, that his client vaguely remembered Duguay. 

Massicotte said Salvail's employment record at Radio-Canada contradicted Duguay's testimony. Duguay testified that in June 1993, Salvail turned to him in the mail room and exposed his penis. But Massicotte said records indicated Salvail was not working in the mail room that day. 

Regarding the alleged sexual assault in the bathroom that Duguay said occurred on Oct. 29, 1993, Massicotte said Salvail had left the company in August of that year. 

Duguay changed his version of events after he made the police complaint, Massicotte told the judge. The complainant had told police he was "forced against a wall between two urinals." But during the preliminary inquiry, Duguay testified that there was only one urinal in the bathroom.

The lawyer suggested that Duguay had checked the bathroom during a visit to Radio-Canada to record a television show and then changed his story. 

During his testimony, Duguay told the court that he had sent an email to investigators — before he had returned to Radio-Canada to record the episode — telling them he had remembered there was only one urinal in the bathroom. But Massicotte said investigators never received that email.

The lawyer also questioned Duguay's claims of being scared of Salvail. Massicotte asked why Duguay stayed in the washroom after the alleged assault to wash his hands.

Judge Dalmau replied that "there are no perfect victims" and no "reasonable" way to behave. "People don't all react all the same way," the judge said.

The Crown prosecutor, Amelie Rivard, is scheduled to make her final arguments Thursday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020. 

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press