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Jian Ghomeshi found not guilty on all charges

A judge has found former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of sex assault and choking charges.

Ontario Court Justice William Horkins delivered his decision at the Old City Hall courthouse this morning.

Ghomeshi had pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count choking to overcome resistance.

In his decision, Horkins pointed to what he said were serious inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimony, and a “carelessness with the truth.”

He said he had no hesitation in concluding that Ghomeshi was not guilty.

When he delivered the decision, Ghomeshi and defence lawyer Marie Heinen hugged Ghomeshi’s mother and sister, who had both attended the entire trial.

The three complainants all left the courtroom with tears in their eyes.

Two of the complainants have their identities protected by a publication ban. The other is Lucy DeCoutere, the Trailer Park Boys actor and a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

At the heart of the case, Horkins said, was the reliability of the witnesses and the assumption of innocence at the start of trial. Probably guilty is not enough, he told the court.

Horkins went through the accounts of the three complainants, who said Ghomeshi punched them, pulled their hair, or choked them during dates. Significant inconsistencies clouded their evidence, Horkins said.

The first complainant, who met Ghomeshi in 2002-2003, recalled Ghomeshi drove a “love bug”-style Volkswagen Beetle — an account later shown to be “demonstrably wrong,” Horkins said.

“In a case that turns entirely on the reliability of complainant this otherwise innocuous error takes on great significance,” Horkins said.

The judge said he found it difficult to believe DeCoutere, who he said showed a “carelessness with the truth.”

DeCoutere did not reveal information about emails, love letters and kissing after the alleged choking until right before her day in court.

“What is troubling is not lack of clarity but the shifting of facts from one telling to the next,” Horkins said.

Horkins said the third complainant was imprecise, unable to recollect whether Ghomeshi had his hands on her neck for a few seconds or 10 seconds. The third complainant had also exchanged about 5,000 messages with DeCoutere, where they said they wanted to “sink the prick.”

She also failed to tell police about a sexual encounter with Ghomeshi after the alleged assault, Horkins noted.

Not even freezing rain could put a damper on the intense interest surrounding the trial.

Dozens of journalists and bystanders lined up outside the court early this morning, hoping to get a seat.

Demonstrators outside the courthouse carried signs that read “Stop victim blaming” and police are on hand to keep the peace.

Some said the complainants were unfairly scrutinized by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, who used correspondence between the complainants and Ghomeshi following the alleged assaults to contradict their testimony and undermine their credibility.

The demonstrators said they had hoped to block Ghomeshi’s entrance into the court.

“We don’t want to make it easy for him,” said protester Cynamin Maxwell.

Horkins delivered his ruling on five charges related to incidents that the complainants had alleged occurred between 2002 and 2003:

Count 1, sexual assault: The first complainant testified Ghomeshi forcefully pulled her hair as they were kissing in his car after she attended a taping of his CBC TV show.

Count 2, sexual assault: She also testified Ghomeshi pulled her hair again and struck her on the side of her head while they were kissing at his home on another occasion weeks later.

Count 3, sexual assault: DeCoutere testified that while at his home, Ghomeshi suddenly began kissing her and almost immediately put his hands on her throat, pushed her against the wall and slapped her twice, paused, then slapped her again.

Count 4, choking to overcome resistance: DeCoutere testified the choking left her struggling to breathe.

Count 5, sexual assault: The third complainant testified she and Ghomeshi were kissing on a park bench when he suddenly began roughly squeezing her neck.

Horkins was not asked to find a pattern between the accounts of the three women as the Crown did not make a similar-fact application, likely due to communication between two of the complainants.

Ghomeshi initially faced a total of eight charges.

Two sexual assault charges were withdrawn ahead of the trial after the Crown found no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Ghomeshi faces another trial in June on the one remaining count of sexual assault relating to a workplace incident.

Torstar News Service

Barrie Police look for suspected debit card thief

BARRIE- Barrie Police have released the photo of a man wanted in connection with the theft of an iPhone 5S and a debit card stolen last week.

Officers said the items were stolen March 17 from the Queens Hotel on Dunlop Street and were used the following day to buy cigarettes at a Mac’s Convenience store at 150 Bayfield St.

The debit card had a tap feature, which doesn’t require a PIN number to be used.

Anyone with information can call officers at 705-725-7025.

Downtown Barrie parking lot has been declared surplus to city’s needs

It was close, but city council put another downtown Barrie parking lot on the block Monday.

The lot behind Barrie Public Library has been declared surplus to the city’s needs and is on the market. By a recorded vote, the motion to do this passed by a 5-4 margin.

Mayor Jeff Lehman and Couns. Arif Khan, Rose Romita – who represents the downtown – Peter Silveira and Michael Prowse voted in favour.

Couns. Andrew Prince, Sergio Morales, Mike McCann and Barry Ward voted against the motion.

Couns. Bonnie Ainsworth and Doug Shipley were absent from Monday’s meeting.

“We have five additional parking lots that we are declaring ‘surplus’, That is a good chunk of real estate to put on the market,” Prince said. “I feel on this location, 60 Worsley, if we put out to market for development it may significantly impair the accessibility to the library and the programs offered.

“Whenever I have driven by the lot is at least three-quarters full. I don’t see any harm in getting interest in the other locations first, seeing what the potential may be and how it fits into the bigger downtown strategy before we make any final decision on the library lot.”

Ward had argued previously that this parking lot was needed for library patrons, a position supported by the library board. He argued that if this lot is sold, there isn’t enough on-street parking near the library and the walk would be too long for library users from other lots.

Library board chairman Ray Duhamel has also expressed concerns in a letter to council, saying losing the lot could harm the library’s ability to offer programs and affect access to the building.

He noted parents, caregivers and car pools bring about 35 children to the library each weekday morning, but that increases to 80 on Saturdays and close to 100 each morning during the summer.

The library board asked council not to declare 60 Worsley surplus.

But city staff say there is interest in this lot, for residential, employment and education use development.

The address of this lot is 60 Worsley St., also the library’s, but it’s actually on the northwest corner of McDonald and Owen streets.

While this lot is close to the library, patrons still have to walk all the way around the building to enter it by the front door.

It has 65 parking spots, but city staff say excess capacity exists within the lots surrounding the library – so the 60 Worsley lot can be declared surplus.

This parking lot is surrounded on its east and west side by two other city lots expected to be marketed as part of Barrie’s critical mass category, for residential density growth.

The motion declares it surplus and puts the property on the block; it also contains a clause that in any staff report regarding a proposed development proposal for 60 Worsley, staff identify an appropriate number of parking stalls in the nearby H-Block and designate them as short-term parking for library patrons.

The city has a strategy for selling its surplus parking lots, and the suitability of each lot for particular forms of development.

City staff have determined, for example, the lot at 58 Maple Ave. is best suited for affordable housing, while 23 Collier St. is best for assembly, for larger developments.

The lots at 55-67 McDonald St./61 Owen St. and 76-78 Maple Ave. would be for high-density residential, while 26 Mary St. should be considered for affordable housing and for other purposes to help maximize the downtown’s residential and/or employment density.

A Barrie bylaw states that any city property to be sold must first be declared surplus and there must be public notice about the city’s intention to sell it.

Selling these surplus downtown parking lots is not without cost to the city, however. It would spend a maximum of $35,000 to appraise the value of the new surplus properties. There’s another $110,000 needed for marketing.

Revenues from sales of these parking lots would reimburse the above costs, then go into the city’s parking reserve.

Staff has identified a number of other downtown city-owned land parcels that could be redeveloped, but it’s recommended they be on temporary hold for any sale for a variety of reasons.

These parcels include 50 Worsley St., 24 Maple Ave., 19 Bradford St., 52 Maple Ave., 1-15 Bayfield St., 9 Simcoe St. and 2-15 Simcoe St.

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New Tecumseth residents warned about misleading salespeople

New Tecumseth is warning residents about misleading salespeople going door-to-door posing as town employees offering to inspect or install equipment in people’s homes.

The town has received complaints from residents about these individuals, who use “aggressive sales tactics” while claiming to be conducting water sampling and water metre testing on behalf of the municipality.

“The town has no affiliations with such individuals or companies and does not endorse such activity,” reads a press release.

 If the town sends an employee to your home, the worker will present proper identification and will typically use a town vehicle.

The town suggests the following tips to stay protected:

·      Do not invite the person(s) inside

·      Do not sign any documents under pressure

·      If you are not interested in what is being offered or if they use aggressive tactics, ask them to leave your property ·      If you are suspicious, contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122

·      If you have questions or concerns about any door-to-door experience, call the Ministry of Government and            Consumer Services at 1-800-889-9768.

For more information, visit www.newtecumseth.ca

Female wrestlers grapple with sport’s stigma

Sam Henry admits she took up wrestling to raise a few eyebrows.

But she’s now one of a handful of local female wrestlers having success, which is encouraging more women to get involved.

Henry, 17, is prepping for the national wrestling championships after competing at the Ontario Federations of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) this month.

Like many wrestlers, she came to the sport with an athletic background — basketball, baseball, figure skating, karate and volleyball.

But she’s found her home on the wrestling mat.

“My Grade 8 teacher started up wrestling at Cookstown Central Public School,” Henry said. “I was the only girl out of 10 boys.”

At Bear Creek Secondary School, she kept it up, joining both the school program and the Kempenfelt Bay (K-Bay) Wrestling Club.

“I liked the fact it was different,” she said. “At first, it was for the shock, but it was a good workout and it was an individual sport.

“With wrestling, there was nobody else to blame a loss on but yourself.”

Fellow K-Bay member and recent OFSAA champ Maddie Haney was also introduced to wrestling in Grade 8 and agreed the shock value played a role in joining.

“I do find it difficult when I say I’m a wrestler and people ask if it’s like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment),” Haney said. “It’s not even close. I have to start educating people about this sport, although it’s almost like it’s so undervalued — no one really knows what it is about.”

At first, she was nervous about facing male opponents, but through playing rugby and karate, Haney was ready for the aggressive nature of the sport.

After beating the boys a few times, she hit her stride.

“The nerves went away pretty fast,” she said.

Wrestling has also provided Haney scholarship opportunities and the chance to compete at the national level.

She’s in good company, with former K-Bay members Jasmine Mian set to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Brock University’s Jessica Brouillette competing at the national level.

K-Bay head coach Nicholas Cryer said girls have been part of the local wrestling scene since he founded the club in 2003.

There is a difference in coaching girls and boys, Cryer said.

He has noticed girls tend to listen better and focus on the strategy behind the sport’s moves.

The boys, on the other hand, just want to get in there and fight, he noted.

“Coaching them together, they are perfect training partners for each other. The guys are bigger and stronger, and if a girl beats them, they will have no problems against another girl,” Cryer said. Helping out with the K-Bay coaching staff is Barrie North Collegiate Institute teacher Susi Rowe, who says wrestling is a great sport for women.

“It’s fantastic. You’d be hard-pressed to find another sport like it,” Rowe said. “It’s great for confidence, great for discipline and we promote sportsmanship.”

WANT MORE?

• For information about the Kempenfelt Bay Wrestling Club, call 705-737-5465.