A Toronto jury on Sunday found Peter Nygard, the high-profile executive behind a failed fashion empire, guilty of four counts of sexual assault after just over three days of deliberations following a six-week trial.
He was found not guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of false imprisonment. His sentencing date will be set later this month.
This verdict represents the first criminal conviction against Mr. Nygard, 82, who has been imprisoned for two years. He is also expected to stand trial for sex crimes next June in Montreal and Winnipeg, where no trial date has been set.
At the conclusion of the Canadian proceedings, Mr. Nygard will be extradited to New York to face sex trafficking, racketeering conspiracy and other charges in a nine-count indictment. ‘charge. Mr. Nygard appealed the extradition decision from New York to Winnipeg – his hometown and former base of Nygard International, his clothing company – citing his poor health, but the court has not yet ruled her decision.
Five women, whose testimony forms the bulk of the prosecution’s case at the Toronto trial, said they were lured by Mr. Nygard to a personal room at his Toronto headquarters under false pretenses, such as receiving a visiting a building, and being sexually assaulted. . The plaintiffs were aged 16 to 28 at the time of the attacks they accused Mr. Nygard of committing between the 1980s and 2005. Their names are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
“It’s something that has tainted my life,” said one complainant, now in her 60s, who first accused Mr. Nygard in 1998 of raping her nearly a decade earlier. She filed her complaint with Toronto police shortly afterward, fearing retaliation from the fashion mogul after learning that his security chief had traveled to Toronto to obtain information about her identity, she declared.
Another woman, a former employee, broke down in tears as she testified that Mr. Nygard sexually assaulted her at a party at the Toronto office, where he had hired her as a hostess.
“I don’t know why someone would hire me and do this to me,” she said, adding that she didn’t tell anyone what happened. “He is so rich and powerful, who would believe me?
Prosecution and defense lawyers spent much of their time digging into the memories of those on the stand, including Mr. Nygard, who testified in his own defense for about a week.
He has consistently denied the accusations and said he did not recall ever meeting four of the complainants, but recognized his former employee. Mr. Nygard’s testimony was marked by frequent episodes of what he called “short-term memory loss,” although prosecutors questioned his ability to remember, in great detail, other facts.
Where his memory failed him, Mr. Nygard told jurors that the sexual assaults and rapes described by the women were out of character for him.
“My position is that I would not have behaved in that manner,” Mr. Nygard said, in response to prosecutors’ claims that he sought contact information for some plaintiffs and offered to help them with their careers.
“I wouldn’t have taken the numbers of a woman who was trying to approach me,” Mr. Nygard said. “It’s kind of a suicidal thing in front of the media, and it’s a total no-no.”
Ana Serban, the prosecutor, described Mr. Nygard’s testimony as evasive, inconsistent and erroneous.
“Her memory was unreliable and selective,” Ms. Serban said in her closing argument to the jury. “You should have no difficulty rejecting his blanket denials.”
Documents that would have helped Mr. Nygard’s rebuttal, he said, burned in “a mysterious fire” at a former warehouse in Winnipeg about 10 days before his arrest in October 2021. The building was sequestered by court after his company filed a lawsuit. for bankruptcy in 2020.
“The only thing that was lost were the paper records that the receiver had placed in that shed under his control,” Mr. Nygard said, adding that a hacking incident that year also compromised his records electronic. But he insisted he tried to help the police investigation by participating in an 11-hour interview with a Toronto detective.
The guilty verdict comes after Brian Greenspan, a defense attorney, urged the jury during closing arguments Tuesday to reject the “revisionist stories of events” told by the five women and the prosecution’s account of “personality.” Jekyll and Hyde” by Mr. Nygard. »
Four of the women are involved in a class action against Mr Nygard in the United States, a point raised by the defense during cross-examination to suggest the women were making up their stories in order to obtain financial gain. “Gold mining runs deep,” Mr. Greenspan said of one plaintiff’s testimony.
Civil action is another legal battle front for Mr. Nygard. In May, a New York state judge ordered him to pay $203 million in defamation damages to Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire whose feud with Mr. Nygard began over a real estate dispute in the Bahamas and turned into two decades of legal wrangling. .
Mr. Nygard attributed the stamina he maintained throughout his hectic lifestyle — glamorous parties, trips around the world in his private plane, the company of dignitaries — to his obsession with health. He told jurors he avoided sugary and starchy foods, did not take drugs, did not smoke and maintained an active lifestyle that left him full of energy despite days work of 18 hours.
Mr. Nygard wore a black suit and orange-tinted glasses, and his trademark long hair was in a low bun throughout the trial. He was visibly relaxed throughout most of his testimony, occasionally laughing at his own remarks, and spoke confidently about his efforts to learn a new word a day.
But he said he did not know the word “Cognac”, the type of brandy the youngest victim said Mr Nygard served her before raping her when she was 16.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to learn a word about alcohol,” Mr. Nygard said during cross-examination.
In her closing argument, Ms. Serban, the prosecutor, cited the exchange as an example of why the jury should not rely on Mr. Nygard’s testimony.
“Here is a man who loves the finer things in life,” she said. “Someone who has a taste for luxury. He wants to give his guests the best possible experience and he will make you believe he doesn’t know the word “Cognac”?