The case against disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been built upon contradictions, innuendo, and unreliable testimony, his defence lawyer said Tuesday as part of his closing argument in the Toronto sex assault trial.
‘“To describe Peter Nygard as an evil predator, a Jekyll and Hyde type of personality, who through wealth and power, lured women and forced them to comply with his sexual demands is neither fair nor accurate,” Brian Greenspan said.
“His life was neither hidden nor secreted, nor were his workspaces, nor were his homes, nor were his private quarters – his passion for his work was open and transparent, his lifestyle was open and transparent.”
Nygard, now 82, was wheeled into a downtown courtroom Tuesday wearing a black suit, his long grey hair tied back into a low bun, and a pair of black-rimmed glasses for the final days of proceedings. He has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in alleged incidents ranging from the 1980s to mid-2000s.
In his closing submission to the 12-person jury, Greenspan worked to paint a starkly different portrait than what five women testified to weeks earlier, instead describing a well-respected businessman who cared deeply for his employees and company. Last month, the women, whose identities are protected by a court-ordered publication ban, told the court that the businessman sexually assaulted them in the top-floor suite of his Toronto headquarters.
Nygard has maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings. During his testimony, he claimed he didn’t remember meeting four of the five complainants and that he would not have performed a sexual act on a woman against her will.
In the defence’s submission, Greenspan suggested that the complainants’ memories could no longer be relied upon as sufficient evidence given the decades that have passed since the alleged offences. In turn, he argued that the Crown’s case was built off of “contradictions and innuendo” and that much of what has been claimed about Nygard has veered into “revisionist history.”
Nygard himself has struggled with memory issues, Greenspan underlined. As the defendant, Nygard was not required to prove anything, call forth witnesses, nor provide evidence, he said.
“When someone is accused of historical offences from decades ago, probing their memory often becomes the only defence,” Greenspan said.
“He spent almost five days in the witness box. He did his best to be candid, cooperative, and truthful.”
Moving through the counts, Greenspan worked to point out alleged inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimonies, landing on the conclusion that prosecution, using these accounts, had failed in its efforts to prove Nygard’s innocence.
“Peter Nygard must be acquitted because the prosecution has utterly failed to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Greenspan stated.
Once the prosecution replies and submits its own closing argument on Tuesday afternoon, Nygard and his lawyers will have no opportunity to respond, Greenspan told the jurors.
“We have no right to reply, no right to take issue despite the fact we might have been totally able to respond,” he said. “I simply ask that you do not conclude that we would not be able to answer.”
The court adjourned just before 12 p.m., following Greenspan’s comments, after which the prosecution is set to submit their closing argument.
The jury is set to begin deliberations on Wednesday barring any delays.
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