Rimouski MNA to plead not guilty to sexual assault charges, lawyer says

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Independent MNA Harold LeBel plans to plead not guilty to sexual assault charges, his lawyer said Monday morning.

LeBel, who represents the Rimouski riding, made his first court appearance Monday morning since being charged in mid-December. The alleged victim is an elected official whose identity is protected by a publication ban.

LeBel was arrested Dec. 15 by provincial police in connection with events alleged to have occurred in 2017.

He released a statement Dec. 17 in which he denied wrongdoing, adding that he wanted to continue his work for the people of Rimouski, about 300 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

LeBel was kicked out of the Parti Québécois caucus and is now sitting as an Independent. He had been the party's critic on several issues, including employment, social solidarity and the fight against poverty.

Maxime Roy, LeBel's lawyer, confirmed his client will plead not guilty. Roy also said that his client is looking to have some of conditions related to his release relaxed.

The case is scheduled back in court Feb. 16.

Prosecutor Manon Gaudreault said today the evidence against LeBel consists, among other things, of three audio-video recordings that will be transcribed.