The sexual assault trial of former Canadian women’s gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker is set to resume Thursday in Sarnia, Ont.
The 55-year-old has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching at his judge-only trial. Defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme is expected to call Brubaker to testify at the start of today’s proceedings.
The complainant, a woman now in her 30s, has testified that Brubaker would kiss her on the lips to say hello and goodbye starting when she was 12 years old. She also accuses him of touching her inappropriately during sports massages. The charges relate to alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007.
She said she feared the coach would punish her in the gym if she denied his advances. In a police interview, Brubaker said he thought he was being a supportive coach and denied any sexual intent.
“I am guilty of crossing the line, but I want you all to know that my intentions were not sexual or premeditated,” Brubaker wrote in a letter during the videotaped interview.
Admissibility of police interview
The judge presiding over the case is considering whether to allow Brubaker’s interview into evidence after court heard the interviewing officer is related to the complainant.
Crown prosecutor David Rows told CBC Sports that final arguments pertaining to this have been submitted, and the judge will rule early on the admissibility of the police interview.
The officer, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainant, testified he told the prosecution about the relationship and had received approval from his superiors before embarking on the investigation.
Ducharme, however, suggested the officer tried to hide the connection. The officer, the lawyer said, never mentioned the relationship in his notes and the defence only learned of it three days before the trial was set to begin. “People like me like to know that the only investigating officer is related to the complainant,” Ducharme said.
The officer contended he didn’t note down his relationship with the complainant because he knew Brubaker would see the notes and didn’t want the relationship to affect what the coach told police. “I wanted to get a confession without the taint of him knowing I was related by marriage,” the officer said in court.
The revelation of the officer’s ties to the complainant delayed the trial by a day in late October as Ducharme re-evaluated the evidence and considered how it would affect the case. In court, he suggested it amounted to a conflict of interest.
When the officer said he believed what the complainant told him, Ducharme responded: “Why wouldn’t you? She’s the godmother of your child.”
Olympic champ calls for culture change
Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, who won gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, said the revelations from the trial show a need for a culture change within the sport.
“As a community we need to come together, and we need to do everything we can to ensure the safety and protection of these young people and make sure there’s no grey areas,” Shewfelt, now a coach, told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux in October.
“It’s black and it’s white. And on one side of it is super positive relationships. And if it’s not, well, then we figure out a way to get rid of all those people that are trying to manipulate their power.”
Watch Shewfelt discuss the ramifications of the allegations against Brubaker:
Gymnastics Canada’s website prominently features its Safe Sport Framework; there’s also information on how people can “report suspicions of child maltreatment or misconduct.”
In a statement emailed to CBC Sports, Gymnastics Canada said it’s working with provincial partners and member clubs to continue implementing a safe sport framework for gymnastics, “which includes tools to assist parents and other responsible adults to identify potentially unsafe situations and to take proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of athletes.”