TORONTO — Jurors at the sexual assault trial of Peter Nygard began their deliberations late Wednesday afternoon, with the fate of the former fashion mogul now resting in their hands.
Over several hours on Wednesday, Justice Robert Goldstein gave the jury his final instructions and told them their duty is to impartially assess the evidence in the case by applying the legal principles he outlined.
"You should consider carefully and with an open mind all the evidence presented at trial," Goldstein told the jurors, who heard testimony from multiple witnesses over the course of six weeks.
"You are the judges of the facts."
Nygard, the 82-year-old founder of now-defunct women’s fashion company Nygard International, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in alleged incidents ranging from the 1980s to mid-2000s.
Five complainants – whose identities are protected by a publication ban – have testified that they were invited to Nygard's Toronto headquarters under pretences ranging from tours to job interviews, with all encounters ending in a top-floor bedroom suite where they allege they were sexually assaulted.
Nygard denied those allegations as he testified in his own defence, insisted he would never engage in such conduct and said he did not recall meeting four of the five complainants.
In his closing arguments on Tuesday, defence lawyer Brian Greenspan argued that the case against Nygard was based on "revisionist history" and a "false narrative." He also suggested that most of the complainants were motivated by potential financial gain from a class-action lawsuit against Nygard in the United States.
Assistant Crown attorney Ana Serban argued in closing arguments that Nygard was evasive and displayed "selective" memory on the stand, purposely distancing himself from pieces of evidence that would validate the complainants’ testimonies.
She said the women who testified were credible, even if they didn’t get certain details right – such as descriptions of Nygard’s private suite – and that they all told similar stories independently of one another.
The judge told the jury on Wednesday that Nygard and his lawyers didn’t have to prove anything in the trial – the burden is on the Crown to prove Nygard’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Goldstein said the jury must decide if the Crown has proven "essential elements" of sexual assault in each of the five counts, which would have to include Nygard intentionally touching a complainant under "circumstances of a sexual nature" and knowing that the complainant didn’t consent to such activity.
"If you don't know who to believe, that means you have reasonable doubt and you must find Nygard not guilty," Goldstein said.
The judge also told the jurors they must not use any "preconceived ideas" about sexual assault in their deliberations or rely on anything that may have been said in court about some of the complainants' sexual history.
"There is no typical victim, or a typical assailant, or a typical situation, or a typical reaction," he said.
After the conclusion of the criminal case against Nygard in Toronto, he will have to face charges in three other jurisdictions, including in the United States.
He is facing charges of sexual assault and forcible confinement in separate cases in Quebec and Manitoba, related to allegations dating back to the 1990s.
Nygard was first arrested in Winnipeg in 2020 under the Extradition Act after he was charged with nine counts in New York, including sex trafficking and racketeering charges.
The federal justice minister at the time had said Nygard would be extradited to the U.S. after the cases against him in Canada are resolved.
None of the charges against Nygard in those other jurisdictions have been tested in court.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2023.
Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press