TORONTO — The sexual assault case against Peter Nygard is built on a "false narrative" created by women whose testimony was not credible, his lawyer argued on Tuesday while the Crown urged the jury to reject the former fashion mogul's "blanket denials."
Defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said in his closing arguments that the Crown's case is based on "contradictions and innuendo" that do not meet the burden of proof, and that much of what has been said about his client in court is "revisionist history."
"You cannot, you must not act on speculation or suspicion," Greenspan told the jury as he outlined his argument for Nygard's acquittal.
While Greenspan said it's "possible" his client may have interacted with the women Nygard has said he has no recollection of, "what never occurred were the sexual assaults described by the complainants."
Assistant Crown attorney Ana Serban, on the other hand, argued that Nygard was "evasive," inconsistent and unreliable when he testified in his own defence and that the five complainants in the trial all independently told similar stories of how they were allegedly sexually assaulted by him.
"These similarities defy coincidence. Peter Nygard is guilty," Serban told the jury in the Crown's closing submissions.
Nygard, the 82-year-old founder of a now-defunct women's fashion company, 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.
Multiple complainants in the trial have alleged they were taken to Nygard's Toronto headquarters under pretences ranging from tours to job interviews, with encounters ending in a top-floor bedroom suite where they allege they were sexually assaulted.
Nygard denied those allegations when he took the witness stand and said he has never done the things the complainants have accused him of. He also said he did not recall meeting or interacting with four of the five complainants.
In his cross-examination, the Crown attorney suggested there were inconsistencies and contradictions in Nygard's remarks to police in 2021 and his testimony in court relating to the layout and contents of his private suite, among other things.
Serban argued on Tuesday that Nygard's evidence "boils down simply to, 'I don’t remember but it wouldn’t have happened that way.'"
She said Nygard was deflecting questions during the cross examination and "distancing himself" from pieces of evidence that would validate the complainants' claims.
"Peter Nygard's blanket denials do not leave you with reasonable doubt," she told the jury.
Nygard's lawyer said his client, whom he called a hard-working businessman who led a very public life, had been portrayed in an unfair and inaccurate way.
"At the outset of this trial the prosecution attempted, in our submission, to paint a false narrative, to describe Nygard as an evil predator," Greenspan said.
"His life was neither hidden nor secreted. Nor were his workspaces. Nor were his homes. Nor were his private quarters," he said. "His lifestyle was open and transparent.”
Greenspan argued that it's "inconceivable that a person so public" would engage in violent sexual misconduct "and gamble on the hope" that the victims would be too intimidated by his wealth and position in society to report it.
Greenspan went through the details of all the charges against Nygard, arguing that in each case the complainant's testimony was unreliable or not truthful, at times describing specific claims as "pure nonsense" or "simply absurd" – such as an allegation that Nygard lured one of the women in part by offering to "triple her salary" if she came to work for him.
But the assistant Crown attorney argued that even though some of the women who testified may have been mistaken about specific interior details of Nygard's Toronto headquarters, such as the placement of an aquarium, the existence of a grand staircase, or the number of TVs in the private suite, they were all credible on the witness stand and their overall testimony "made sense."
Serban also noted that some of the complainants told certain people in their lives about the alleged sexual attacks shortly afterward, adding further credibility to their claims.
Greenspan suggested that some of the complainants were motivated by a class-action lawsuit against Nygard in the United States, in what he called a "gold-digging" scheme. The Crown disputed that, saying the women were not motivated by "economic gain" and that the civil litigation has no bearing on the criminal case.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating their verdict in the case on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.
Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press