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Former Canadian women’s ski coach Bertrand Charest has been found guilty of 37 of 57 criminal charges he was facing, including sexual assault, involving girls he coached two decades ago.
Quebec Court Judge Sylvain Lépine read his ruling in a packed courtroom in Saint-Jérôme, north of Montreal, on Thursday morning.
Several of the women who testified against Charest were in the courtroom to hear the decision.
Lépine said there was, without question, an imbalance of power between the accused and the complainants.
“The accused had total control both emotionally and athletically over the complainants,” Lépine said.
Charest, 51, was facing charges including sexual assault and breach of trust in connection with 12 complainants, who were between ages 12 and 19 at the time of the alleged incidents.
He was convicted of charges relating to nine of those complainants.
Charest was asked to stand in the prisoner’s box as Lépine read out his decision.
Lépine said he found a significant similarity between the testimonies of the complainants.
“These young women testified with precise details 20 years later,” he said, adding that any discrepancies in their testimonies were minor.
In a statement, Alpine Canada said the decision makes it clear that there is no place in sport or society in general for individuals in a position of authority who abuse or harass others.
Prosecutor Caroline Lafleur said it was important to note that the judge found the complainants credible, which sends a clear message to others in the same situation.
“Even 20 years later, the victims filed complaints, testified and were believed by the courts,” she said.
Defence lawyer Antonio Cabral said his client was “disappointed” with the decision, but said he is trying to stay positive.
The complainants claimed Charest abused them when he was their coach, before and during his stint with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998.
Several of the complainants testified they had sexual relationships with Charest, with many saying he was controlling and manipulative toward the athletes he managed.
It was alleged the incidents occurred at Mont-Tremblant, north of Montreal, as well as in Whistler, B.C., France, Austria, New Zealand and the United States.
Charest, who has been in custody since his arrest in 2015, did not testify during the three-week trial in March.
Some of the women who testified said they felt they were in love with Charest at the time but eventually came to believe they had been manipulated.