Bertrand Charest: Video shown at sex assault trial shows female students looking uneasy
SAINT-JEROME, Que. — Homemade video footage of a 1990s European ski trip shown at Bertrand Charest’s sex assault trial Monday included scenes of two young female ski students who seemed uneasy and who wouldn’t look at the camera.
The former ski coach filmed his students skiing down French mountains and driving through the winding roads of Monaco, but he also took video inside the bedrooms of the teens who went on the trip during the 1994-95 ski season.
A witness told the court Monday she doesn’t have any happy memories of that time.
“I remember feeling awful about myself,” she testified. “I couldn’t look in the camera. I couldn’t look (Charest) in the eyes.”
Charest, 51, is on trial on 57 charges, including sexual assault and breach of trust, in relation to 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19.
Monday’s witness said she saw coach Charest pin a young girl down on a bed during that European ski trip and fondle her breasts in order to humiliate her.
The woman told the court other people were around when Charest played with her teammate’s breasts and commented how they weren’t firm enough.
“We were all laughing,” she said, except for the young girl allegedly being abused. “We didn’t realize what was happening. She was telling him to stop.”
The witness said she was on the ski team for two years, beginning in the 1993-94 season, when she was 15.
She said Charest never physically abused her or attempted to, but she said he had degrading and humiliating nicknames for her and others on the team.
In the video footage, which was provided to the court by the witness, Charest uses those nicknames on her and the other girl whose breasts he allegedly fondled.
“I didn’t like him,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable in his presence.”
The witness said she left the team when she was 16 and decided to focus on her studies.
Later in the day, a second witness told the court he met Charest in the late 1980s and became his student in the early 1990s.
They travelled together on ski trips with other students, including one young woman the witness said he developed feelings for.
The witness said the young woman was really close to Charest, who always allowed her to sit at the front of the van when they drove during ski trips, because she allegedly had a bad back.
When they stayed overnight at hotels, the woman would get her own hotel room — ostensibly because she needed rest because of her back, the witness said.
The man said he and Charest became close, and he considered his ski coach to be a close friend and confidant.
In late 1993, at the age of 16 and after he ended his ski career, the witness told Charest he wanted to start dating the young woman, who was 15 at the time.
The witness said Charest invited him to dinner to talk about it.
“(Charest) was shaking,” he said. “He was usually so confident, but he seemed really nervous.
“He told me that I couldn’t date her because he and her had been dating for a year. I couldn’t believe it.”
During cross-examination, the man said he continued to be friends with Charest after the revelation.
“I didn’t see it as a coach telling me this,” the witness told the court. “I felt it was like a friend telling me he was dating a girl I liked.”
He said Charest was 27 at the time.
The trial began March 2 and is expected to continue until the end of the month.
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
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