Bertrand Charest doesn’t deny having had sex with some students: lawyer
SAINT-JEROME, Que. — Bertrand Charest doesn’t deny having had sex with some of his teenage ski students but disagrees with his portrayal by the Crown and his alleged victims, one of his lawyers said Wednesday.
“There were sexual relationships between Mr. Charest and certain of the (alleged) victims,” Antonio Cabral said outside the courtroom after calling his third and final witness at the former ski coach’s sex assault trial.
“What Mr. Charest wasn’t ready to admit was that this was a generalized behaviour and that it was generalized with 12 (alleged) victims as is reported in the charges.”
Charest, now 51, is on trial on 57 charges, including sexual assault and breach of trust, in connection with 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19 during the 1990s.
They claim Charest abused them when he was their coach, before and during his stint with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and ’98.
Several of the alleged victims testified they had sexual relationships with Charest, with many saying he was controlling and manipulative toward the athletes whose careers he managed.
Some of them said they felt they were in love with Charest at the time but eventually came to believe they had been manipulated.
On Wednesday, Cabral said his client disagreed with the way he was portrayed by the alleged victims, especially when it came to their level of consent.
Cabral said Charest believes the sex he had with the young skiers was consensual.
Earlier, a former assistant ski coach testified that Charest had an “intense” relationship with his students and sometimes made comments about their bodies.
Alexandre Lussier said hearing the comments made him uncomfortable but none of Charest’s students ever came to him to complain while he travelled with them during the ’95-’96 ski season.
Lussier, like the two previous defence witnesses, said he never witnessed any sexual behaviour between Charest and his students, and only heard rumours of inappropriate conduct when Charest was removed from the national development team in 1998.
Charest’s sister and a director of a regional ski association testified earlier this week for the defence.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Cabral said he believes the defence presented a different perspective on Charest’s behaviour by showing he acted largely the same with everyone he dealt with in the ski world.
“He’s someone who maybe lacked judgment in certain situations but who wasn’t looking for sexual gratification through his behaviour,” he said.
Cabral said Charest did not testify because he saw no reason to add to what he told police in a 2015 deposition.
In that video, which was shown earlier in the trial, Charest told police he was in love with two of his alleged victims and added, “I never did anything with anyone against their will. When there is no consent, for me, it’s rape.”
The trial continues Thursday as the Crown and the defence seek to clarify the location of a ski competition described in earlier testimony.
The judge is expected to indicate whether closing arguments will be delivered in the courtroom or by writing.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
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