SARNIA, Ont. — A former athlete who trained under one of Canada’s top gymnastics coaches accused him of sexual assault because she was bitter about not achieving her Olympic dreams, the man’s lawyer argued at his trial Friday as a prosecutor urged a judge to take the woman’s allegations seriously.
Dave Brubaker, who was the director of the women’s national gymnastics team, has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation.
The complainant, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was one of Brubaker’s top athletes and took up much of his attention at his gym in Sarnia, Ont., court heard.
“We suggest that obvious and significant disappointment when her aspiration to become an Olympic gymnast slowly but perceptibly diminished, when her coach and surrogate father went on to take other gymnasts to great successes, had a significant effect on her psyche,” defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme told the court in his closing arguments.
Other young women who trained under Brubaker made it to the Olympics, but not the complainant, court heard.
The woman, who was a teen at the time of the alleged incidents, testified that she was disappointed and angry that she didn’t make it, despite training upwards of 25 hours a week for years and sustaining multiple injuries in pursuit of her dreams.
Crown lawyer David Rows argued that the woman’s willingness to disclose those details gave legitimacy to her testimony.
“She was forthright about her bitterness toward Mr. Brubaker,” Rows said. “That as a whole did not taint her evidence.”
The woman told the court that Brubaker would sometimes touch her backside while kissing and hugging her goodbye. She said he would also pick her up from school and take her to his house, where he would occasionally spoon her in bed and tickle her belly before driving her to practice.
Ducharme argued that wasn’t possible because Brubaker’s wife was nearly always home at the same time, but the Crown said the coach’s spouse couldn’t have always been present so there still would have been opportunity for such naps.
“If you accept the (complainant’s) evidence,” Rows said, “the only logical inference is that the touching of the bum and the touching of the stomach in the bedroom context was of a sexual nature for which the complainant did not provide consent.”
He also said the woman’s evidence that Brubaker groped her while hugging her goodbye should be believed.
Ducharme noted, however, that the woman couldn’t remember which hand Brubaker used to reach behind her.
Brubaker’s defence lawyer also called into question the legitimacy of the police investigation into his client, noting that the only officer to probe the case was a close friend and relative of the complainant. That officer cannot be named to protect the identity of the alleged victim.
“(The officer’s) investigation was not appropriate,” Ducharme said. “His investigation lacked all professional distance.”
Ducharme suggested that the officer fed the complainant allegations to bring against Brubaker.
“He cajoled a favourable statement from her,” the defence lawyer said, noting that there were differences between what the complainant told the officer and what she told the court.
Justice Deborah Austin is expected to deliver her decision on Feb. 13.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly said Brubaker was facing one count of invitation to sexual touching.