Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon acquitted of charges in rape, indecent assault trial

The founder of the world-famous Just for Laughs comedy festival has been acquitted of charges of rape and indecent assault.

Gilbert Rozon, 66, was charged in December 2018 in relation to acts allegedly committed in 1980 in Saint-Sauveur, Que. when he was 25 years old. His trial took place in front of a judge alone, back in October.

A woman told the court trial that the entertainment mogul raped her 40 years earlier in the ski-resort town north of Montreal.

Quebec Court Judge Mélanie Hébert lifted the publication ban on the woman’s identity, at her request. Her name is Annick Charette, 60.

While reading her ruling Tuesday, Hébert said she found Charette’s testimony clear and that the defence offered no proof her testimony could have been influenced by others. She also said she found no significant contradictions in Charette’s testimony, as defence lawyers had alleged.

But Hébert also stressed the importance of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and noted that on many points Rozon’s testimony was consistent.

During the trial, several woman stood outside the courtroom in protest, wearing masks bearing the hashtag #MeToo, in reference to the international movement to denounce sexual assault.

Charette told the court she met Rozon in 1980 — three years before he launched his comedy festival — when he came to the radio station where she worked to record publicity spots.

She said he invited her out to a club after work. Afterward, Rozon said he was tired and refused to drive her home, she said. He showed her to a room where she could sleep.

Charette said the next thing she remembered was waking up with Rozon on top of her, “determined.”

She said she didn’t remember all the details of the alleged sexual assault that followed, but she said she recalls looking out a window to the right of the bed while it happened.

Rozon testified that it was Charette who had initiated the encounter.

Rozon’s charges reflect those that were on the books at the time of the alleged offences — rape has been replaced by sexual assault in the current version of the Criminal Code.

The Crown prosecutor’s office evaluated 14 complaints against Rozon dating back to roughly the same period, but only moved forward with the charges currently being argued in court.

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