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Former world junior hockey players charged with sexual assault choose jury trial

Five former members of Canada's world junior hockey team who are charged with sexual assault in a 2018 incident in London, Ont., have chosen to be tried by a jury.

Dillon Dube, Carter Hart, Michael McLeod, Cal Foote and Alex Formenton were charged with sexual assault last month. McLeod is also facing an additional charge of sexual assault for "being a party to the offence."

In a joint statement, their lawyers said the five players selected a jury trial earlier this week and are "confident that jurors drawn from the community will decide this case fairly and impartially after hearing all the evidence and testimony."

The charges in the case relate to an alleged incident at a hotel in London in June 2018, after members of the world junior team celebrated a gold-medal win.

The investigation was initially closed without charges in 2019 but it was reopened in 2022.

London's police chief, who took on the role last year, apologized to the complainant earlier this month for the delay in laying charges in the case, but would not explain what caused the delay, citing the court case.

The case cast a national spotlight on how law enforcement and sports organizations handle allegations of sexual assault.

Hockey Canada and the National Hockey League, where four of the five accused now play, each launched their own investigations, the results of which have not been made public.

Dube plays for the Calgary Flames, Hart for the Philadelphia Flyers, McLeod and Foote for the New Jersey Devils. Formenton previously played for the Ottawa Senators before joining a team in Switzerland. All five players have been allowed to go on indefinite leave.

Lawyers for the players have said their clients will defend themselves against the allegations in the case.

Jury trials are available to those accused of the most serious crimes, known as indictable offences, such as murder. They may also be an option for those accused of so-called hybrid offences, such as sexual assault.

The case is due back in court April 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press